Third suspicious fire hits Montville property

Firefighters battle a blaze at 24 Old Colchester Road Ext. in Oakdale.
Firefighters battle a blaze at 24 Old Colchester Road Ext. in Oakdale.

Montville — Two firefighters were injured Wednesday night while battling a suspicious blaze at a vacant Oakdale home that had already caught fire two times earlier this year.

A male firefighter was taken to The William W. Backus Hospital for chest pains, Town Fire Marshal Raymond Occhialini said, and a female firefighter was also taken to the hospital after feeling lightheaded while fighting the fire at 24 Old Colchester Road Extension.

The 6 p.m. blaze appeared to be under control within 45 minutes at the 1,762-square-foot clapboard, barn-style home that Occhialini said had intentionally been set ablaze two consecutive nights in March. The owner, Alfred Fratus, died in October of last year, Occhialini said, and two tenants were living in the house in March when fires were set outside the home. Gasoline was used in those fires, he said.

Fratus had owned the rural, nearly 4-acre property for more than 50 years, according to online records. The home is embroiled in an ongoing property dispute.

“I hate to see all these people out here risking their lives for arson,” said neighbor Nola Waite, who stood in the near-freezing temperatures and watched the firefighters work.

Two “No Trespassing” signs adorn the home, which an online sales listing describes as a possible setting for a mini-farm, a “Maine-type rustic cottage” and four outbuildings, including a historic schoolhouse. Occhialini said the house had no sheetrock and was thus a “big fire box.”

“The third time’s a charm,” Occhialini said of the fire, which was the most destructive of the three this year.

Police cordoned off a section of the large, wooded yard where tire tracks were visible in the snow. Occhialini said whoever set the fire may have driven up through the yard.

The state fire marshal, state police Major Crime Unit and an accelerant-detecting K-9 responded to the scene for an origin-and-cause search of the home, which remained standing following the blaze.

The extent of the injuries to the firefighters was unknown Wednesday night. The two firefighters were among dozens who responded from the Oakdale, Salem, Chesterfield and Mohegan fire departments. Tankers from the Bozrah, Oakdale and Montville fire departments filled up with water from Oxoboxo Lake and trucked it up about half a mile to use to fight the blaze.

Despite a recent rash of fires in Oakdale, Occhialini stressed there is no serial arsonist in town.

“They were specifically targeted properties, for one reason or the other,” he said.


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