Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on August 1, 2023, at approximately 12:30 p.m., a structure fire with entrapment was reported on Buttonwood Drive in the Lanoka Harbor section of Lacey Township. Upon arrival, emergency personnel discovered a fully engulfed two-story structure fire. Brenda Wright, 67, an occupant of the residence, was rescued from the rear of the structure. Ms. Wright was transported to Community Medical Center for treatment of her injuries; she is listed in stable condition.
Reports indicated that there were four additional victims inside the structure. Attempts were made to rescue these victims, but the roof of the structure collapsed – forcing firefighters to evacuate.
“It is with great sadness that I must report the loss of Jennifer Wright, 39; Alaina Wright, 34; a 14 year-old female victim; and a four month-old infant, all of whom were occupants of the residence, and perished in the fire. This is an unspeakable tragedy, and our prayers are with the loved ones of these victims,” stated Prosecutor Billhimer.
A thorough and extensive investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office-Arson Unit, Lacey Township Police Department Detective Bureau, Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office, New Jersey State Fire Marshal’s Office, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, revealed that the fire originated on the porch on the west side of the structure, and that improperly discarded smoking material cannot be eliminated as the cause of the fire.
“The cause of the fire has been ruled accidental,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.
Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office-Arson Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, Lacey Township Police Department Detective Bureau, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office, New Jersey State Fire Marshal’s Office, and Ocean County Medical Examiner’s Office for their collective and collaborative assistance in connection with this investigation.
Prosecutor Billhimer also extends his gratitude to all the neighbors, fire service personnel and emergency service personnel that responded in an effort to assist and suppress this fire.