A blaze that consumed a dilapidated, apparently-vacant house on one of the busiest  roads near downtown Toms River has investigators considering whether it was intentionally set.

Toms River House Fire, February 15, 2014 (Toms River Police Department)
Toms River House Fire, February 15, 2014 (Toms River Police Department)

According to Toms River Police spokesman Ralph Stocco, a driver notified them at about 1:16 AM Saturday that the house at 499 Lakehurst Road was enveloped in flames.

Patrolmen William Hutton and Walter Herman arrived to find fire pouring from the front porch. Their attempts to locate anyone inside via an open side door were thwarted by the intense heat and flames.

Toms River Volunteer Fire Companies 1 and 2 and the East Dover fire squad brought it under control by 2:12 AM, police said, and an interior search revealed no one inside. Hutton and Herman reported no injuries.

Investigators believe that the house has been vacant for a significant amount of time, and now consider the circumstances suspicious.

Investigators Kevin Esposito of the Toms River Fire Prevention Bureau and Mitchell Remig of the Ocean County Prosecutor's Arson Unit now have the lead roles in the probe, assisted by the Toms River PD Criminal Investigation Bureau.

The dwelling is one of a dwindling number of homes still fronting Lakehurst Road, which largely contains commercial structures and offices of medical specialists.

The street runs roughly parallel to Route 37, is frequently used as an alternate to the highway, and offers access to Community Medical Center before spanning the Garden State Parkway and emptying onto Water Street in the heart of downtown.

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