Authorities are working to determine if two suspicious overnight fires, one at the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office, and another at a local law firm, are connected.
Bridgeton Police Chief, Mark W. Ott, told NBC40, "You know, arson is pretty serious business." And arson is exactly what police and fire officials are dealing with in CumberlandCounty, after two suspicious fires ignited within two hours of each other late Tuesday night.
Just after 11:30 Tuesday night, Vineland Police and fire officials responded to a commercial burglary alarm at the Helmer, Conley and Kasselman Law Firm on West Landis Avenue.
Zeny Leyva lives next door to the law firm and said, "My brother was the one who heard the noise first. He thought somebody broke into the house." Neighbors say they heard loud noises and shortly after, they saw the building on fire. Antonio Leyva explained, "When I looked here in the rear, I saw flames."
Two hours later in nearby Bridgeton, police say the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office on Fayette Street was broken into and set ablaze.
Jason Capizola lives near the Prosecutor’s Office and said, "I looked out and it was just chaos. I just saw fire trucks, forensics, crime scene investigators; everything was all around. This whole side of the building was just up in flames."
Smoke and water damage has displaced 20 county employees' offices.
Cumberland County Prosecutor, Jennifer Webb Mc-Rae, told NBC40, "We're very lucky that it was isolated to a small exterior office, and although there is some smoke damage as well as heat damage throughout the building, it could've been much worse than it actually is."
"I mean, there could be any number of motives; revenge for some type of conviction," explained Chief Ott. “We've already contacted Vineland PD so that we can set up a meeting to discuss similarities." Webb-McRae added, "This fire was intentionally set. I can't comment on what the circumstances of that fire are - but my gut tells me that any investigator would look to determine if there was a connection."
CumberlandCounty officials say the Prosecutor’s Office is fully operational and have relocated their displaced employees to four of their other offices while the fire is fully investigated.
Because the Cumberland County Prosecutor is involved in the case, officials say the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office will step in to aid in the investigation.
Police in Vineland and Bridgeton are coordinating their investigations and are requesting that anyone with any information to come forward. CrimeStoppers can be contacted anonymously at 856-691-0345.
Fire officials have not said what may have caused the fire, and the investigation continues.
Bridgeton Police are offering a $500 reward for any information that leads to an arrest.
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