PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN NEELY
Riverhead Fire Department firefighters attacked the blaze from the roof, where the electrical fire is believed to have originated.
Ray Smith doesn’t sound like a man whose house just burned down.
“I have to ask the Lord every day, all day long, ‘Lord, what have I done for you to be so good to me?'” Mr. Smith said a day after his Lincoln Street home, believed to be about 90 years old, was destroyed by fire last Wednesday.
“Everything in there is a total loss,” the 75-year-old said. “But the main thing is that nobody was in there. For me, the things that I lost don’t mean nothing. But if somebody had gotten hurt, I would have been really upset.”
It took about four hours for firefighters from Riverhead and six neighboring departments to bring the blaze under control. It was discovered about 10 a.m. and sent flames shooting through the roof and second-story windows. It appeared to have started either in the attic or on the second floor, and was so intense that a portion of the roof collapsed. Prior to that, Riverhead firefighters had determined that it was too dangerous to fight the flames from the inside. They ordered everyone out of the building and instead using their 102-foot ladder truck to spray water onto the roof.
Riverhead Town fire marshal Scott Davonski said Tuesday that the fire was not considered suspicious and that the cause appeared to be electrical. Mr. Smith, who has owned the home for more than 30 years, had speculated that an overloaded circuit might have caused the blaze.
Mr. Smith said he and his 28-year-old grandson, Frederick Griggs, lived in the home, but Mr. Griggs, who works late, didn’t come home Wednesday morning.
“He would normally be here, but that night he stayed with his cousin,” Mr. Smith said.
Mr. Smith, a nuisance wildlife expert, said he had left the house at about 7 a.m. and didn’t notice the fire when he returned around 10 a.m.
“I just came home and went in the back door and two guys came by and said to get out, the house is on fire,” Mr. Smith said. “There was no fire downstairs.”
As he walked around to the front of the house, he heard a crackling sound from inside and thought it might be his grandson trying to get out of the house, he recalled. He approached the house, he said, “but when I got to the steps, the smoke was so bad, I couldn’t get in there.”
Still, Mr. Smith said he had a feeling his grandson was somewhere safe.
“I’m just so glad he didn’t come home that night,” he said.
Since the fire, Mr. Smith has been living with his niece on Sound Avenue and has received many offers for help, he said.
“There was a woman, I didn’t know who she was, she said you can come and stay with me,” he said.
The Riverhead Fire Department said three firefighters were taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries.
In addition to Riverhead, fire departments from Flanders, Jamesport, Manorville and Cutchogue also responded to the scene, while the Mattituck and Wading River departments were on standby at the Riverhead firehouse and responded to three minor calls, according to the Riverhead Fire Department Web site.