BELMAR, NJ — After correcting a laundry list of fire code violations at the Seaport Inlet Marina, owner Robert Gerzsenyi now plans to make a nearly $100,000 investment to install a sprinkler system on the facility’s boat racks.
The project comes nearly three months after an accidental fire that began on one of those racks destroyed 12 boats and prompted an evacuation of surrounding homes.
“In 50 years that the marina has been in operation, there’s never been an issue here. The fire was accidental, and now I want to make things right so that if there ever is a fire, it will be contained to one boat,” Gerzsenyi said, emphasizing that the project was his idea and not a borough requirement.
Since the February 14 blaze, he has been under fire by nearby residents, who cite ongoing safety concerns at the marina, which sit on the banks of the Shark River — sandwiched between residential homes and the new Riverwalk at Belmar, a three-story building of condominiums and professional offices that stands at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street.
The squabble with his neighbors intensified when an annual fire inspection performed earlier this month revealed 29 violations, all of which have since been corrected, according to Gerzsenyi.
He said steps taken to comply with fire safety regulations include: better delineating with yellow paint the fire lane that runs from the marina’s main driveway on Fifth Avenue to the riverfront; storing propane tanks in enclosed cages and paint in fireproof cabinets; installing lighted exit signs in the office and garage area; repairing holes in ceilings; and replacing faulty extension cords.
In addition, $5,000 has been spent to purchase new fire extinguishers, and updated N.J. Uniform Fire Code permits are in place for the usage of torch devices and propane, the marina owner said.
“Everything on the list has been done,” added Gerzsenyi, who has 30 days to comply with the findings in the April 11 report.
Belmar Fire Marshal Ryan Dullea, who conducted the annual Fire Prevention Bureau inspection, explained that the types of violations found at Seaport Marina are issued for safety reasons and are common to everyday businesses. “These violations (occur) without most business owners knowing they are in violation (of fire codes),” he said. “That is where my job comes in — to educate them on these violations. Once a business owner has realized they are in violation, they rectify the issue and become in compliance.”
Dullea also has required the full-service marina to submit site plans for both seasonal and winter operations, which includes the number of vessels being stored at any given time.
Since issuing the violations report, the fire marshal said Gerzsenyi has kept him updated on the corrections and improvements being made.
Mayor Matthew Doherty concurred: “I have been in contact with the owner and he’s made significant strides to improve safety at the marina since the Valentine’s Day fire. Things are definitely moving in a positive direction.”
On February 14, a marina worker was using a heat gun to apply shrink wrap to a boat in storage when the material caught fire. The blaze quickly spread to 12 boats, three of which were owned by Gerzsenyi. As a precautionary measure, about a dozen surrounding homes were evacuated but the structures were unaffected as firefighters were successful in containing the smoky fire to the marina property.
After an investigation, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that the fire was ruled accidental.
Still, at the Borough Council meeting on April 4, Leigh O’Donnell who lives in front of the marina on Fifth Avenue, presented a list of issues with photographs to illustrate her concern. “What is going to be done? I’ve lived here for 25 years and have never seen it like this.”
James Kaufman of Terrace Road expressed his reservations with the situation: “How are we going to be assured that inspections are upheld and safety codes are adhered to?”
The Seaport Inlet Marina is expected to be a discussion item on the Borough Council’s upcoming May 4 meeting.