Authorities: Man faces criminal charges for destructive fire in New Jersey

New Jersey fire officials say a man on Lakeside Road was illegally burning scrap, lumber and debris Saturday when the fire spread up a hill and destroyed a home on Kushaqua Trail.

News 12 Staff

Mar 20, 2023, 9:52 PM

Updated 400 days ago

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Police say a man is facing criminal charges for an illegal outdoor burn that spread out of control, destroyed a home and injured first responders.
Fire officials in West Milford, New Jersey, say a man on Lakeside Road was illegally burning scrap, lumber and debris around noon Saturday when the fire spread up a hill and destroyed a home on Kushaqua Trail.
Neighbor Ilona Pyrich says she witnessed the fire, which led to an explosion.
“I panicked for a moment. I packed a bag in case I had to be evacuated. There was an explosion when the propane tank went, and things shot all over the place,” she says.
Officials tell News 12 that three firefighters were hurt fighting the fire, and two were taken to the hospital.
The fire marshal says the neighbor on Lakeside Road is probably going to be issued citations, since New Jersey law only allows outdoor burning for recreational purposes.
Some neighbors told News 12 they'd like to see the person who started the fire face more than a fine for an illegal outdoor burn, considering there was so much property damage and three firefighters were injured.
West Milford Fire Marshal Michael Muscatello says firefighters often address illegal burning before it becomes disastrous but that this time the burning was so negligent and disruptive that more action is being taken.
"We'll issue summonses. We'll educate them to stop. This is the first time we've had where it got out of control to this point that it's caused ... this type of damage,” says Muscatello.
A detective on the case says he still needs to interview the man accused of causing the damage before saying more.
He says that police are looking at charging him under New Jersey's criminal mischief statute.
The fire marshal says two other homes were damaged but are still inhabitable.
He says the residents displaced from the destroyed home are staying with family while they figure out their next steps


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