Man charged with arson after giant inferno torches NJ apartments, homes, store

1010 WINS Newsroom
January 14, 2020 - 2:10 pm
Juan Hector Padilla

NJ State PBA/Somerset County Prosecutor's Office

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BOUND BROOK, N.J. (1010 WINS) — A man was charged with arson Tuesday after a large fire at an apartment building construction site in New Jersey spread to several other buildings Sunday night, creating a massive inferno that could be seen for miles around, authorities said.

Juan Hector Padilla, 28, was seen near the construction site a number of times before the fire started, according to authoroties, who said an investigation into the cause of the fire led them to Padilla.

He faces charges of second-degree aggravated arson and third-degree hindering investigation apprehension/false information.

The fire broke out at the construction site and spread to another apartment building across the street, two houses and an electronics store, Bound Brook Police Chief Vito Bet told NJ.com.

“We’re gonna be out here for awhile. It keeps rekindling,” he said.

Video shot by Marc Teschic shows the intensity of the fire, with bright orange flames rising high into the night sky as people watch on amid smoke and falling embers.

But no major injuries from the conflagration were immediately reported, according to news outlets. The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately known.

NJ Transit initially suspended the Raritan Valley Line in both directions, substituting bus service; service resumed after 3 a.m., but the line tweeted that Bound Brook Rail Station would be closed Monday.

Bound Brook is in Somerset County and around 30 miles west of New York’s Staten Island.

The fire started in an unoccupied complex called the Meridia Downtown, which Bound Brook Borough Councilman Abel Gomez said included 174 apartments and retail space. Gomez said the apartment complex across the street — also under construction — had space for 60 residential units and a restaurant.

The councilman said the destroyed complexes were developed with private funding and within the downtown redevelopment zone. The area had suffered a series of floods over the past two decades, and the apartments were supposed to be part of a downtown renaissance following the 2016 completion of a flood control project.

“Bound Brook was in the process of a renaissance,” Gomez said. “After all the floods we’ve had here, and now we have this fire.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.