The former chief of a southern New Jersey fire company who helped a property owner burn down an abandoned home and masked the arson as a training exercise is now headed to prison.

Patrick Foster (NJ Attorney General's Office)

Patrick Foster of Quinton Township was sentenced Tuesday to 364 days in the Salem County Jail and two years probation.

The 47-year-old pleaded guilty last December to arson and hindering apprehension or prosecution. He also resigned from the fire department and is barred from holding any public position or employment.

State authorities say Foster sent fire company members to the abandoned house in December 2010 and had them douse the second floor with gasoline before setting it on fire. Foster admitted doing this to gain assistance from the property owner's son, who was the township's housing official.

Prosecutors say Foster wanted to obtain a certificate of occupancy in connection with renovations he was making to his own home.

They also said Foster admitted that he hindered the investigation by lying to authorities, telling them his wife knew of an arrangement between him and the housing official regarding the fire and the certificate of occupancy, when she was not aware of it.

Prosecutors noted that it's illegal for firefighters to burn down a standard, existing structure for training purposes, citing the stringent requirements that must be met for "live-burn" training. They also said a permit is required for such training exercises, and no permit was obtained in this case.

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