Town Hall receptionist escapes from Saturday morning house fire

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Verna Campbell and her daughter Bonnie-Sue Luce outside their fire-damaged home on Maple Avenue.

A longtime Riverhead Town Hall receptionist and her daughter escaped a fire early Saturday morning at their century-old home on Maple Avenue in Riverhead.

Verna Campbell, 78, said she woke up at 5:45 a.m. and turned on the stove to heat up some water for tea. She said she then went into the bathroom to brush her teeth and when she came out some boxes stored next to the stove fell over and caught on fire.

“I was so nervous, I tried to put it out but couldn’t,” she said. “It was out of control. I’ve lost everything.”

Ms. Campbell said she had to go upstairs to her daughter’s apartment to exit from the second floor exterior stairway.

She said that while her daughter, Bonnie-Sue Luce, was also able to safely exit the home with her dog, they lost three cats in the blaze.

“That hurts deeply,” Ms. Campbell said.

The home at 156 Maple Avenue was passed down from Ms. Campbell’s mother, Gladys Evelyn Brown Smith. It is more than 100 years old, Ms. Campbell said.

Ms. Campbell has worked as a receptionist at Town Hall for 35 years. She said she will be staying with Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm in Calverton.

Ms. Luce said Saturday morning that a fourth cat had not been located. Riverhead fire officials said they would bury the remains of the three cats they located inside the home.


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