Quick police response during Phillipsburg fires led to suspect’s swift arrest, prosecutor says

Teamwork between Phillipsburg area police lead to the quick arrest of a town man following a series of fires early Saturday morning, prosecutors said.

Alfredo Gomez, also known as Kevin Chavez, of the 300 block of South Main Street, was arrested after police were called for four fires set in about 24 minutes near Sitgreaves and South Main streets in Phillipsburg, authorities said. No one was reported injured.

The 20-year-old Gomez was arrested while he was leaving the fourth fire, Warren County Prosecutor James Pfeiffer said, and is charged with aggravated arson in that incident.

The investigation is continuing, and more charges may follow, Pfeiffer said.

“The quick action on behalf of the Phillipsburg Police Department (led) to the immediate arrest of the suspect,” Pfeiffer said in a release.

The following four blazes are under investigation:

  • Reported at 12:03 a.m., a piece of lawn furniture was set on fire and placed under a door handle at 102-104 Sitgreaves St. The building was not damaged.
  • A Nissan vehicle set on fire in a rear parking lot of 459 S. Main St., causing body damage to the vehicle.
  • A home at 471 S. Main St., which had minimal damage to a back wall.
  • Reported at 12:27 a.m., the fourth and final fire was at a Honda Pilot parked in the St. Philip & St. James school parking lot on South Main Street. The vehicle had body damage.

Phillipsburg police were called for multiple fires and quickly asked for mutual aid from surrounding departments. Pohatcong police responded to the fourth fire and saw a suspect who matched a description of the arsonist, the prosecutor said.

“This is an excellent example of how the Municipal Mutual Aid agreement between law enforcement departments is meant to be effectively utilized,” Pfeiffer said.

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Sarah Cassi may be reached at scassi@lehighvalleylive.com.