Man charged with arson in massive New Jersey fire that destroyed 4 buildings

BOUND BROOK, New Jersey (WABC) -- A man has been charged with arson in connection with a raging seven-alarm fire that started in an apartment building under construction in New Jersey and spread to several other buildings late Sunday.

Four buildings were gutted by the flames, which broke out around 8 p.m. in a five-floor apartment complex on Mountain Ave and East Main Street in Bound Brook.

Authorities on Tuesday announced the arrest of 28-year-old Juan Hector Padilla in relation to the blaze that began at the construction site of the Meridia II, which included 174 apartments and retail space.

They say Padilla was seen walking in the area several times leading up to the fire, and that further investigation revealed he was responsible for starting it.

Strong, gusty winds helped spread the blaze to another apartment building across the street, two houses and an electronics store, Police Chief Vito Bet said.

"The whole sky was orange," witness Eric Dabeek said. "It was almost like Armageddon."

VIDEO: Drone footage shows massive Bound Brook fire from up above:

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Drone video shows flames shooting out of apartment buildings under construction in Bound Brook, New Jersey. (Courtesy: RH)


Courtesy: RH

No injuries were reported, but the Red Cross said they were helping 24 people from 11 families displaced by the fire. Some 400 residents were left without power as a result of the fire.
The investigation into the origin and cause of the fire is ongoing by investigators.

Padilla is charged with second-degree aggravated arson and third-degree hindering investigation apprehension/false information.

At a town council meeting on Tuesday night, it was clear that many in the neighborhood think Bound Brook is growing too fast and building too many buildings that they say are changing the character of the area.

For those opposed to the construction, the mayor did not offer much hope. He said despite objections, the project would be rebuilt precisely as it was designed.

Anyone with additional information is urged to contact the Somerset County Prosecutors Office Major Crimes Unit at (908) 231-7100 or the Bound Brook Police Department at (732) 356-0800. Information can also be provided through the Somerset County Crime Stoppers' Tip Line at 1-888-577-TIPS (8477).

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