Watchung man charged with arson in apartment fire

A resident has been arrested and charged with starting a fire at a Watchung apartment complex.

According to the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office, Jesus Aviles, 30, has been charged with aggravated arson for allegedly starting a fire at the Avalon Watchung apartments on Crystal Ridge Drive.

The fire started just after 2 p.m. Thursday on the third floor of building 9. Officials say the fire started inside the trash room. Rolls of toilet paper soaked in gasoline and a hair curling iron were used to start the fire. Investigators also found two canisters of gasoline, a melted black plastic bag and a large box of matches.

Residents of the apartment told investigators Aviles was banging on other tenants' doors alerting them to a fire in the trash room. When an employee of the complex tried to find where a smell of gasoline was coming from, Aviles allegedly stopped him from checking.

Investigators obtained a search warrant for Aviles' apartment and found evidence of the toilet paper, matches and curling iron.

Aviles returned to the complex at around 10 p.m. Wednesday wearing a hospital bracelet and burns on his hands and head. He was arrested and taken to Somerset County jail.

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