According to several sources close to the investigation, town arson investigators brought a former volunteer fireman in for questioning after it was learned that several blazes were set in the general vicinity of the man's home. However, no arrests have been made in the case.
Guttenberg Police Director John LoPresto said the investigation is ongoing and definitely an arson investigation. "It is being treated as an arson investigation, but I can't comment on anything else," LoPresto said. "It is an active investigation and the fires are being treated as being related."
At least seven related small fires have been reported in Guttenberg in the last two weeks, although it has been a full week since the last one was reported in a cardboard box outside Harpo's Bar on Park Avenue. It was the second such fire at that location.
Four of the seven fires have taken place outside town establishments like bars and taverns, with the other three taking place in garbage receptacles. All seven have apparently been set in the early hours of the morning, between of 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.
While most of the fires have been contained to garbage areas, a fire two weeks ago outside Strikers' Bar on Broadway and 69th Street began in the garbage area, but spread to the general structure, causing serious damage.
At least three anonymous sources said that police are operating on the premise that the perpetrator could be a former member of the volunteer department, which was phased out after Guttenberg became a part of the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue in 1999.
In July of 2002, as a cost cutting measure, Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna and the Town Council instructed the NHRFR to remove the hook and ladder apparatus and the pumper truck that the Guttenberg Volunteer Fire Department had been using as loans from the NHRFR.
At the same time, it was announced that six members of the Guttenberg Volunteer Fire Department, which had been in existence for 158 years before the ruling, were being promoted to full-time paid members of the Regional, ending a three-year litigation battle the volunteers had with the NHRFR, citing that they should have been grandfathered in as paid members when Guttenberg joined the regional.
When the six members of the volunteer department were promoted, it left only a handful of active members who traveled to neighborhood fires on their own vehicles and were not permitted to actually fight the fires, causing more controversy.
According to one reliable town source, the suspect was seen at the fire scenes by police, even in the early morning hours.
LoPresto is hopeful that the rash of garbage arsons has come to an end.
"It's been a week since the last one," LoPresto said.