By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO April 25, 2006 A fire that police are investigating as possibly suspicious decimated a decades-old home at the corner of St. John Street and Bedford Avenue in Monticello yesterday.
The apartment building housed 11 people and was located directly across from BOCES St. John St. Education Center.
The residents were immediately moved into the Super 8 Motel on Broadway by the American Red Cross. None were injured, but two cats died.
This was the second fire there in the last month and a half. A smaller fire hit the building in March after workers left a space heater on after renovating the home. A wooden board still covers a window.
An investigation is currently ongoing by the Sullivan County Bureau of Fire and the Monticello Police Department. Monticello Police Department Chief Douglas Solomon said that detectives are investigating several suspicious factors, but he could not elaborate. The buildings owner, Mohammed Sirgany, was questioned by police, he said.
At least one of the residents was irate that the building was kept open despite prior building code violations. Justin George, who lived in the back of the first floor, called the fire a shame. This is the second time this happened. . . . There is an electricity problem. We shouldnt have been living there. Somebody could have gotten killed. We had a lot of stuff in there. Its really sad.
Village of Monticello Building Inspector Sue Flora condemned the building in 2004 due to electrical deficiencies and fire hazards. Sirgany then purchased the home and made the necessary upgrades, she said.
But after the fire in March, Flora once again condemned the building and evicted the tenants. However, Sirgany was able to correct the electrical issues and the tenants were allowed back in April 3.
Flora and Sirgany said the cause of the fire was not electrical, but police and fire investigators have not yet ruled it out. According to Flora, three apartments were spared direct fire damage, but the others were destroyed.
The building has been condemned, and the owner will be responsible for its demolition, she said. Flora said the building will be boarded up immediately, and time will be given for people to move out any belongings which they could save.
Some of the tenants said they are considering a lawsuit against Sirgany.
Jermaine Jones, who works for Kohls Distribution Center in Wurtsboro, lost all he had in the blaze. His apartment was in the front. He will be staying with his girlfriend, Michelle Colton. Colton said the two were about to move in together. Those wishing to assist him may contact Colton at 665-9493.
Dawn and her son Anthony DeLorenzo fled their apartment after a smoke alarm went off in their neighbors upstairs apartment around 8 a.m. The neighbor alerted them to the fire, and they were able to escape, along with their dog Freedom. Those wishing to help the DeLorenzos may contact Paul DeLorenzo at 807-7935.
Damaris Rundle, Senior Coordinator of Emergency Services with the American Red Cross of Orange and Sullivan Counties, said, Well try to help them as much as we can for as long as we can.
The agency will deliver food, clothing and medication for the victims. They will also assist them in finding new homes.
Sirgany said he will try to find other apartments for the victims. He said he has vacancies at other buildings in the area.
Dozens of firefighters from the Monticello Fire Department and Rock Hill Fire Department were on hand to fight the blaze. Volunteers from the Smallwood/Mongaup Valley Fire Department and Fallsburg Fire Department were also on hand.
The Red Cross may be contacted at 856-0540 or 294-9785.