Juan Hector Padilla was indicted on charges of second-degree burglary, second-degree aggravated arson, third-degree aggravated assault for injury to a firefighter and third-degree hindering apprehension of oneself, Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson said alongside county and local officials.
Thirty-six fire companies from four counties responded to the Meridia II on East Main Street and Mountain Avenue around 7:55 p.m. on Jan. 12.
The fire quickly spread spread throughout the building, and an adjacent structures -- bringing the New Jersey State Forestry Service to the scene as well.
A firefighter suffered a sprained ankle while suppressing the fire, which rose to seven alarms.
The blaze could be seen several miles away and left nearly half of the town's PSE&G customers without power as of 10:30 p.m. Firefighters continued to douse hot spots into the following morning.
Detectives from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, the Bound Brook Police Department, the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Fire Investigation Unit, fire officials from Somerset County, and State and Federal investigators responded to the scene to collaboratively conduct the fire investigation.
Padilla was seen walking near the Meridia II several times leading up to the fire, Robertson said.
On Jan. 13, Padilla was arrested and slapped with several charges on a criminal complaint, and lodged at the Somerset County Jail pending a detention hearing Jan. 17.
After the hearing, Padilla was ordered held under an order of pretrial detention entered by the court, and indicted by a grand jury on Dec. 2.
Robertson thanked members of the Bureau of the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearm and the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office that assisted in this investigation.
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