Fires strike fear in Chuckatuck

Carolyn Harris knows the damage from her garage fire could have been much worse.

The April 14 blaze torched her car and brought the entire garage to the ground, destroying many possessions and memories. Her daughter is currently out of the country, and many of her things were stored there. But Harris feels blessed that firefighters were able to save her house, which had some exterior damage on the side nearest the garage.

The fire has raised the level of alertness in the already-frightened community of Chuckatuck.

“All we know is this is the fourth fire in the neighborhood,” Harris said, stopping short of saying she suspects a serial arsonist.

“Late at night, you hear this popping sound.”

From Harris’ leveled garage, she can see two of the other three fire sites. The third is out of sight only because of a house in between.

That was the site of the first fire in the spate of blazes. It was reported just after 11 p.m. on Oct. 7 and burned a former corncrib that had been converted into a house. The renter and her 5-year-old son were gone at the time.

In January, a shed behind a Kings Highway house burned. Harris’ roof and siding were damaged in that fire, too, because it was so close to her house — her backyard backs up to the Kings Highway backyard. She had just gotten her home repaired when it was damaged again by her garage fire on Sunday.

A garage on Meadowlot Lane was the site of the third of the neighborhood’s fires.

Then, this week, there was the conflagration at Harris’ home on Evergreen Lane, which also damaged her neighbor’s garage.

John Toscano, Harris’ neighbor on the other side, is convinced a serial arsonist is at work, and he worries that he’s next.

“We’re scared to death,” he said. As an insurance adjuster snapped photos of the remains of Harris’ garage Friday morning, Toscano moved possessions from his shed into his house.

To back up his suspicions, Toscano counted off the similarities.

All the fires have begun after dark on the weekend. All have involved sheds or garages that can be accessed along the back property line, out of sight of the homes. And all of the buildings have burned remarkably quickly.

“It’s too fast,” he said. “By the time we know it’s lit, it’s engulfed.”

City spokeswoman Diana Klink said the cause of all the fires is officially listed as undetermined.

“The Suffolk Fire Marshal’s Office is actively investigating all incidents,” she said, declining to answer further questions about the investigation.

Klink asked anyone with information to contact the Fire Marshal’s Office at 514-4550 or the non-emergency dispatch number at 923-2350, option 0.


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