Volunteer firefighter faces arson charges

A Middletown volunteer firefighter is facing charges of official misconduct and aggravated arson for allegedly setting fire to a barn on an abandoned property along Middletown Road.

The fire occurred on the morning of Oct. 11, leaving the volunteer firefighter in critical but stable condition, according to Monmouth County Acting Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Sean Powers, a Middletown resident and a volunteer firefighter at the Navesink Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 since March 2012, and William Rohweder, a Middletown resident, are each charged with one count of second-degree conspiracy to commit aggravated arson, one count of second-degree aggravated arson and one count of third-degree aggravated assault.

Because of Powers’ status as a volunteer fireman, he is also charged with one count of second-degree official misconduct for his role in the arson, according to a press release from the prosecutor’s office.

The charge of official misconduct carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a minimum period of parole ineligibility of five years.

Additionally, if convicted, Powers would also be required to forfeit his position as a volunteer firefighter and banned from holding any public employment in the state in the future.

Each of the charges of conspiracy and aggravated assault carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years in a New Jersey state prison.

Each of the men faces a maximum state prison sentence of up to five years on the thirddegree aggravated assault charge.

Rohweder was released from the Monmouth County Correctional Institution, Freehold Township, after posting $85,000 bail with no 10 percent option.

According to the prosecutor’s office, Powers sustained serious burn injuries and was in critical but stable condition at the Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.

Judge Kilgallen set Powers’ bail as released on recognizance, on the condition that he remains an in-patient at the medical facility. Upon his release from in-patient care, the bail will be reviewed.

Middletown fire and emergency personnel were dispatched to 251 Monmouth Ave. at 5:48 a.m. Saturday on a report of a structure fire at that location. A 911 call initially reported fire engulfed a barn situated on an abandoned residential property.

Several Middletown firehouses responded to extinguish the blaze, including the Navesink Hook and Ladder Company No. 1. One of the firefighters from that firehouse received minor injuries while responding to the call. The structure was completely destroyed.

A joint investigation by the Major Crimes Bureau of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Middletown Township Police Department into the origin and circumstances of the early-morning barn fire revealed Powers and Rohweder allegedly set the structure ablaze purposefully by dousing the interior of the barn with a flammable liquid.

Once the fire was set, Powers and Rohweder allegedly fled the scene.