BOUND BROOK, NJ - Fortified by hundreds that have reached out to help, phone calls from the governor, a local businessman offering $10,000 to make things better and assurances from Somerset County officials that help is close at hand, Mayor Robert Fazen is determined to undo the damage to the borough's downtown caused by a seven-alarm fire Sunday night.
“Bound Brook will rebound and we will rebuild,” the mayor said.
Fazen said his phone has been ringing non-stop since Sunday; one of those calls was from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy; another was from Steve Kalafer, owner of Flemington Car & Truck Company and the Somerset Patriots baseball team, offering to donate $10,000 to help the borough with expenses related to the fire.
Fazen spoke at a press conference Tuesday at the borough's municipal building, where Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson announced the arrest of borough resident Juan Hector Padilla, who has been charged with setting the Sunday night fire that destroyed two five-story apartment buildings that were under construction on E. Main Street.
There was only one minor injury to a firefighter; more than 50 people have been displaced and are being assisted by the Red Cross and other agencies, according to Fazen..
Somerset County Freeholder Director Shanel Y. Robinson and her colleagues from the Board of Chosen Freeholders were there to support Fazen, pledging all available resources.
The officials also praised the work of the borough's volunteer firefighters, who were assisted by 36 other fire departments from Somerset, Middlesex, Morris and Hunterdon counties during the press conference.
“I want to thank all of the first responders – it is because of your quick response, your diligence and your commitment to this county, that we were able to contain the fire,” Robinson said. “Our tagline at the county is Making Vibrant Connections - It’s about people coming together and we’re doing just that. From the state to the county to local municipal government and agencies, we’re here for you Bound Brook. And we will continue to be Somerset County strong.”
Demolition of the buildings has begun; the mayor also announced that the developers of both apartment complexes plan to rebuild as soon as possible. Traffic continues to be re-routed from the downtown area as the clean-up continues.
The fire was reported around 7:55 p.m. on Jan. 12 at the Meridia II building, adjacent to the NJ Transit parking lot. The Bound Brook Fire Department responded and almost immediately additional alarms were raised, bringing in over 40 pieces of equipment to put down and contain the fire, which took over four hours, according to Bound Brook Fire Chief Bruce Gorski. At daybreak, firemen were still hosing down the charred remains of the buildings. The intense fire, with flames that were estimated at 80 feet, spread across the street to the second building, and several smaller buildings, including an electronics store and boarding house.
Other support included eight EMS agencies, 11 ambulances, the Somerset County Office of Emergency Management, 911 Dispatch, Fire and EMS coordinators, Public Works, an Arson Task Force, the Bureau of the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, the New Jersey State Forestry Service and the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, according to Gorski.
Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson, Chief of County Detectives John W. Fodor and Bound Brook Chief of Police Vito Bet announced Padilla's arrest at the press conference. The suspect has been charged with second-degree aggravated arson and third-degree hindering investigation apprehension and providing false information. Robertson said additional charges are possible as the investigation continues.
Robertson and Bet credited surveillance video from nearby businesses, as well as video from individuals' I-phones for the quick arrest of the suspect within 24 hours of the fire.
Others in attendance included Freeholder Deputy Director Sara Sooy, Freeholder Brian G. Gallagher, Freeholder Melonie Marano, Chief of County Detectives John W. Fodor, Somerset Sheriff Darrin Russo, Bound Brook Councilmen Abel Gomez and Brad Galeta, Deputy Fire Chief Joe Guillia, Assistant Fire Chief Richard Colombaroni, Bound Brook Administrator Hector Herrera and Deputy Administrator Yasmine Mathis.