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Homeowner recounts quick-moving fire on New Year’s Day

01/02/2019 12:58 PM |

A fire that destroyed part of a home in Northville Tuesday evening has left a family in shambles for the new year.

Fire departments from Jamesport, Riverhead, Flanders, Mattituck and Cutchogue responded to the Tuesday evening fire after the Riverhead Police Department received a report of a structure fire at 7:15 p.m. at 59 Pier Ave., north of Sound Avenue.

While no injuries were reported, the garage and east side of the home, including two bedrooms, sustained major damage.

Paul Kuzman said he was preparing a holiday dinner for himself, his wife, Christine, his son, Matt, and his father-in-law, Peter Baschnonga, when the fire alarm screeched through their two-story home.

Without seeing anything burning on the stove, he peeked in the garage — only to see supplies stored in a corner up in flames.

Mr. Kuzman said he then ran to the kitchen to grab a small fire extinguisher, but the flames had already spread throughout the garage, and smoke was entering the house.

“I ran to grab it, then I came out was like, ‘I’m not even trying, it’s not going to do anything,’ ” he recalled Wednesday morning.

He wanted to get the car out of the garage — but he said it was too late. By the time he entered the garage, it was “obvious” that he couldn’t extinguish the fire himself.

“I had a little burn on my arm because I was trying to get the car out of the garage — but that didn’t happen. I just backed off at that point,” he said. “We just called the fire department and ran out.”

The fire “quickly” consumed the left side of the home, reducing the contents of the garage to powder and destroying parts of two bedrooms. The bare metal bones of a Mini Cooper sedan currently sit in front of the home. Four other cars took severe damage, Mr. Kuzman said.

The five fire departments successfully extinguished the fire around 8:30 p.m., he said.

“The fire departments did a great job; they were here quick,” he said. “It seems like an eternity when you’re waiting for them to show up, but in reality it was not long. It was a holiday, everyone volunteers, and they were here remarkably fast.”

The Riverhead Town fire marshal’s office is investigating the incident, however the fire does not appear to be suspicious.

The family slept at a neighbor’s home Tuesday night. The next step, Mr. Kuzman said, is to figure out where the family will stay. The likely option is staying with his family in Setauket — but he doesn’t want Matt, a second-grader at Aquebogue Elementary School, to leave the district. 

“He’s pretty resilient, he’s taken it well,” he said. “But we want to keep him in the same school.”

Mr. Kuzman said he’s grateful that no one was hurt. 

“We’ll get through it,” he said.

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Photo caption: The bare metal bones of a Mini Cooper sedan sit in front of the home Wednesday. (Kate Nalepinski photo)

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