Chris was outside with his mother near their Twomey Avenue home Sunday afternoon when he first smelled smoke. He went inside to rest for a minute or two, then smelled smoke again.
He soon found out his front porch was on fire.
“I opened up [the door to] the porch and it was up in flames,” said Chris, who did not want his last name published.
He and his mother escaped the ensuing blaze unharmed, but the fire spread quickly and the house nearly burned to the ground.
“It’s just devastating,” Chris said quietly while standing outside the ruins Monday morning. “You don’t think it’ll happen to you, but then it does.”
Riverhead Fire Department officials said they arrived on scene about 4:30 p.m. and found the two-story house fully engulfed. Firefighters from Riverhead, Jamesport, Flanders, and Wading River Fire Departments fought the blaze for about 45 minutes until it was brought under control, officials said.
Riverhead firefighters then returned to the scene Monday morning after warm embers in the burned house began to burn again. They quickly doused the sparking fire, fire officials said.
Chris said he’s lived at the house with his partner, Steven, and his mother since 2009 when they moved to Calverton from western Suffolk County.
They managed to escape with some of their pets, but the family lost pet birds in the fire. A black cat is still missing.
Chris said he and his partner had recently renovated the interior of the house and put a lot of “time, energy, and money” into several projects. But now the house and everything that was inside are lost.
Chris and his partner are now staying at a nearby hotel, while Chris’s mother is staying with friends while neighbors care for the family’s dogs.
An online fundraiser was set up this week by a family member to help raise money for the victims.
The victims said they are thankful for the offers of support from many in the community, but for the moment are just focusing on getting their affairs in order.
They need to get new cell phones, replace drivers licenses that were lost in the blaze, and talk to their insurance company to see if they can rebuild the house, Chris said.
“Hopefully, they cover this,” he said, glancing at the remains of his house.
The cause of the initial fire is still under investigation, according to the Riverhead Fire Marshal’s office.