The official cause of the March 6 fire that destroyed several stores at Short Hills Town Center in Cherry Hill has been officially listed as "undetermined," according to a report from Cherry Hill's chief fire marshal.
Because of the extensive damage to the plaza, Chief Fire Marshal Thomas Shemeley said he could not access the area of the fire's origin to identify any potential ignition sources, necessitating the "undetermined" finding.
However, a joint investigation by insurance investigators and others representing parties in the fire insurance claim determined that, at the time of the fire, a developer was adding a new transformer and during a switchover from the old transformer the conductors for part of the plaza were cross connected with the new transformer, energizing the neutral leg of the wiring system when power was restored, according to Shemeley.
"When the power was transferred over...it appears there was almost an immediate fire," Cherry Hill Fire Chief Chris Callan told 70and73.com.
A neutral leg in the wiring could be connected to grounding, which can run through an entire building, he said. In some cases, a grounding wire might be attached to a cold water pipe, which touches wood. If the pipe becomes energized, it can cause the wood to ignite.
Fire was everywhere in the Short Hills building, Callan said, as photographs of the blaze showed. Shops destroyed in the fire included the Classic Cake bakery at one end of the strip and Starbucks Coffee at the other end. The shopping strip was demolished shortly after the fire.