Marlando Williams was just settling in upstairs at his home when he heard a loud bang from the garage Friday afternoon.
At first, he and his wife, Sandra, were confused about what caused the noise until he ran downstairs and opened the garage door. Inside was a wall of black smoke obscuring a flickering fire.
“I tried to grab our fire extinguisher, but I couldn’t find it in time,” he said. “I wasn’t able to grab anything. Not even a decent coat. We just went out in our pajamas.”
Soon, the family’s home of nearly 10 years was engulfed in flames and smoke.
Mr. Williams said his family is still “a little shook up” after Friday’s fire that destroyed their spacious house and all their belongings on Alfred Avenue in Calverton. But they are grateful that they and their dog made it out safely. They are also grateful for the kindness of neighbors and volunteer firefighters who helped during and after the fire.
The blaze started around 3:30 p.m. and quickly spread throughout the house, bursting through the roof and melting siding. East End fire departments — including Riverhead, Wading River, Ridge, Manorville and Flanders — responded to the scene and were still battling it for more than an hour.
Riverhead Fire Department spokesman Bill Sanok said about 90 volunteers responded to the scene and the fire likely started in a car that was parked in the garage.
Riverhead police officer Byron Perez said he believes the flames were fed by high winds.
“The wind just made it blow up,” he said.
According to Mr. Sanok, one firefighter suffered second-degree burns on his ears while trying to put out the fire. The volunteer — whose identity wasn’t made public — was taken to Stony Brook University hospital’s burn center and released later that night after receiving treatment, Mr. Sanok said.
The fire broke out during a busy time for volunteers, as numerous minor calls were reported as firefighters tried to bring the blaze under control. The Flanders Fire Department helped handle Riverhead’s other calls, Mr. Sanok said.
Mr. Williams, a former state trooper who once ran for the local school and town boards, said his family and their dog were taken in by neighbors after they escaped.
“Our neighbors were kind enough to lend a hand,” he said.
The family had been one of the first to build in the Calverton development, he added.
Nothing from the home was salvageable, Mr. Williams said.
“The insurance company has told me that if it wasn’t burned it was too diluted with water,” he said. The family is now staying in a hotel while they wait for an insurance agent to survey the damage.
In the meantime, the Williamses plan to contact the local fire department to extend their thanks to the firefighters, specifically the man who was injured. “He was brave enough to go in there,” Mr. Williams said. “They were wonderful and we appreciate them.”
Photos by Paul Squire