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Serial Arsonist Arrested in Woodbury as a Result of 3rd Alarm Equivalent Fire

This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

WOODBURY, NJ - At around 3:30 A.M. on February 7th, Taskforce 51 was dispatched to 433 Glover Street for a reported building fire. Engine 513 arrived to find a three-story vacant building (the former Sketch Club, a one act play theater in its prime and before that the Original West End School built in 1899), with heavy fire showing from the B/C corner. 

Engine 513 requested the All Hands be re-dispatched. Engine 513's crew attempted an interior attack, but was met by heavy fire conditions. Ladder 516 arrived and set up in the C/D division and began opening up. 501(B. Hauss) arrived on location with heavy fire conditions throughout and requested the second-alarm.

With the structure already in poor condition from years of neglect, Command decided to go defensive and remove all members from the building and its exterior fire escapes. Ladder 926, Ladder 2816, and Ladder 516 were set up for exterior operations. The building collapsed in multiple areas during fire suppression.

The fire was placed under control around 5:30 A.M., and crews remained on location for extensive overhaul. A demolition crew was enroute to assist with overhaul and investigation efforts. The fire is being investigated by the Gloucester County Fire Marshal’s Office, the Woodbury Police Department Detective’s Unit, and the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office. There were no injuries reported. Companies were released at 8:25 A.M.

Companies on location included Command 501 (B. Hauss), Operations 2202 (D. Hauss), Safety : 603(J. Jones), Accountability: R Gartner, Chiefs: 603, 901, 1301, 1501, 1502, 1901, 1902, 9201, Engine : 513, 613, 922, 1312, 1911, 2111, 2212, Ladder: 516, 926, 2816, Squad: 613, 2218, Rescue: 1918, RIT: 812, 1518, Utility’s: 517, 2217; Other: Woodbury Police, County Fire Marshals, Gloucester County EMS, County Fire Coordinators, GC Prosecutors Office, Woodbury Public Works, PSE&G, Bridgeton Fire Department Arson K9 Unit and GC-OEMS. Second-Alarm companies: County Regional Taskforce 4; Covers: County Regional Taskforce 3.

On February 11th, Woodbury police and the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office arrested a man they said is a serial arsonist responsible for three fires over the course of one week in early February. 

Michael Lopez-Medina, 19, was charged with three counts of aggravated arson and one count of aggravated assault causing injury to a firefighter.

The fires began Feb. 1 when a car went up in flames on Salem Avenue. Then, on Feb. 2, he set fire to a shed outside of Carriage House Apartments on Evergreen Avenue. Lopez-Medina was then linked to a fire at the former Sketch Players Club theatre on Glover Street.

At the sites of the last two fires, Lopez-Medina used spray paint to write "Let's Play" and "Playtime's Over" on the ground next to the fires. Lopez-Medina confessed to the crimes, and is currently been housed at the Salem County Correctional Facility awaiting a hearing.

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