Niece who inherited Montville house 'numb' after third fire since March destroys it

Montville - Angela Moreira could have never imagined that when she inherited her uncle's house last year at 24 Old Colchester Road Extension, it would bring her so much trouble.

The home had been intentionally set on fire two times in March, and a third fire that also appears to be arson destroyed the home Wednesday. The home, which sits on 4 acres, was slated to be sold for $205,000 on Friday, she said.

"I'm numb," Moreira said. "I was so happy to have a buyer. I hope they catch who did this."

Moreira, from Bozrah, said she and a friend were at a movie Wednesday when she learned that there was yet another fire at the home. She said a tenant at the home had just moved out on Sunday.

In the March fires, Moreira said people were living in the dwelling and had to escape the house.

"We were lucky that no one was injured," she said. "I don't understand how someone could risk putting lives in danger."

After the fire, she and her real estate agent, Nancy Warburton from Re/Max of Gales Ferry, helped relocate the March tenants and fix up the property.

Moreira said she was close to her aunt and uncle, Georgianna and Alfred Fratus, and she took care of him when he became a widower in 2005. A relative of Alfred Fratus' is suing his estate.

Moreira said after the March fires she installed cameras at the residence. The tapes were turned over to investigators, she said.

Fire Marshal Raymond Occhialini could not be reached for comment Thursday. The state fire marshal, state police Major Crime Unit and an accelerant-detecting police dog also responded to the scene Wednesday.

Oakdale Fire Chief Gary Murphy said Thursday he was the first officer to arrive at the fire, reported at 5:37 p.m. Wednesday. He said heavy flames were coming from the rear of the building and were reaching the second floor.

"I'm not an investigator, but it appears to me that the fire was intentional," he said. "There was a strong odor of gasoline when I got there."

He said it took at least an hour to get the fire under control. Initially, firefighters fought the blaze from the interior of the home, but Murphy withdrew the crews because conditions were becoming increasingly dangerous.

"It was extremely hot inside," he said. "It (the fire) had such a big head start. It's really sad to see that house go away."

Murphy said three firefighters were injured and were treated and released from The William W. Backus Hospital. A firefighter was treated for possible smoke inhalation and two others for exhaustion.

Fire departments from Oakdale, Chesterfield, Salem, Gardner Lake, Bozrah, East Great Plain, Lyme and Montville, and FAST teams from Mohegan Tribal and Colchester, responded.

Murphy said about 50 emergency personnel were at the scene.

He said if the fire does turn out to be an arson, many lives were put at risk.

"It makes our job much more tougher and that (much) more dangerous," Murphy said.

i.larraneta@theday.com

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