Two teens who intentionally lit a Christmas tree on fire in a culvert, sparking a blaze that caused more than $15,000 in damage and shut down the Garden State Parkway for nearly 10 hours will not have their names released publicly and have already completed a 60-day stay in juvenile detention.
The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office released a statement Monday on the fate of the teens, both Brick residents aged 14 and 15 who were referred to by their initials only – A.R. and I.J. Both were responsible for the arson incident near the highway which occurred Jan. 19, 2022.
Although the charges were resolved in late 2022, the state’s intention to identify the juveniles by name in a subsequent public disclosure was opposed by attorneys for the juveniles in motions pending before the court. Those motions, according to prosecutors, were only recently decided by the court in the juveniles’ favor in February 2023, when it was ordered that the juveniles could be identified solely by their initials.
Late last year, both juveniles pleaded guilty to arson and criminal mischief, and admitted that a Christmas tree inside a drainage culvert was purposely lit on fire, resulting in the extensive damage to the area. Both I.J. and A.R. were sentenced to 60 days in the Ocean County Juvenile Detention Center as a condition of three years juvenile probation. Additionally, the court ordered $15,000 in restitution to be split evenly between the juveniles.
Finally, both juveniles were ordered to complete 50 hours of community service and attend and complete a fire setter’s education program.
The fire broke out at about 5 p.m. in the area of milepost 91 on the Garden State Parkway in Brick Township, according to officials. During the investigation, NJ State Police detectives determined that the fire was started within a drainage culvert that runs underneath the Garden State Parkway – from the 91 north entrance ramp to the 91 south exit ramp. The detectives’ investigation ultimately revealed that two juveniles, I. J., 15, and A.R., 14, were responsible for the arson and “various acts of delinquency related to that event.”