Arson suspected

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 23, 2005

Saratoga fire under investigation

By Allison Williams

Fire investigators have not ruled out arson as the cause of the fire that destroyed a vacant garage in the Saratoga community Wednesday morning.

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&uot;The fire is being investigated,&uot; said Capt. James T. Judkins, spokesman for the Suffolk Fire Department. &uot;We have not ruled out arson.&uot;

Firefighters spent more than two hours Wednesday morning battling the blaze that swept through the garage at 406 Brook Avenue, said Judkins. No one was living in the house owned by downtown businessman Frank Sheffer.

Firefighters were dispatched to the scene around 9 a.m., after neighbors and a patrolling police officer spotted billowing black smoke filling the air. By the time firefighters arrived, the detached garage had already caved in, Judkins said.

Heat, recorded by a thermo-imaging camera at over 300 degrees, shattered a rear window in the nearby house.

The fire also spread to an adjacent storage building at 408 Brook Ave. owned by George L. Townsend Jr. The heat also destroyed Townsend’s camper shell and damaged his 1983 Pontiac Firebird.

Damage totaled more than $3,100, Judkins said.

The fire department is investigating several other fires in the downtown area in recent months, the most recent at Save-A-Buck, a used appliance and furniture store in the 200 block of East Washington Street, in late May.

Seven other suspicious fires have been reported in the downtown area in the past year; four in trash dumpsters, one pile of trash and another in the mulch around a building, Judkins said.

Investigators have conducted several interviews in these cases.