Eli Ruiz | Democrat
This house on St. John St., in Monticello, was the scene of a fatal fire yesterday morning.
Fire claims life in Monticello
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO June 25, 2013 A massive early morning blaze at 34 St. John’s Street in Monticello took the life of a male occupant early yesterday morning.
The home currently under the ownership of Sullivan County was last owned by a Celestino Valverde Jr. Valverde lost the home to a bidder at June’s county tax auction. The successful bidder had yet to consummate the deal at the date of the fire.
Monticello Police Chief Robert Mir confirmed a “male victim.” Mir said the investigation was in its “infancy” and would not release the victim’s name. Mir told the Democrat that an autopsy was scheduled for Monday afternoon, after which time more information including the victim’s name and cause of death will be released.
Assisting the Monticello Police Department with the investigation are the New York State Police, as well as the Sullivan County Bureau of Fire.
The apartment house was built circa 1920 and was 4,141 square feet in size and three stories tall. It sat on a 100x2111⁄2-foot lot and was listed as having a full market value of $89,300 in the tax auction booklet. It was also listed as “occupied” and had a one-story barn and two-story barn on the parcel.
Monticello Fire Chief Mark Friedland said the first call came in at 8:06 a.m. Monday. The two-alarm fire garnered responses for the Monticello Fire Department, which was assisted by the Rock Hill, Hurleyville, Wurtsboro and Smallwood/Mongaup Valley FDs. The Forestburgh Fire Department was on standby. MobileMedic Ambulance also responded to the scene.
Friedland said that the fire took approximately 21⁄2 hours to bring under control.
A neighbor who asked that his name not be used told a reporter on the scene that Valverde “seemed sad and distraught” since losing the home and had withdrawn socially.
A local law enforcement source with knowledge of the early investigation cited Valverde as the victim in the early morning conflagration.
“I just saw Mr. Valverde a few weeks ago and he was really down and out about the loss of the house,” said Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins, who added, “I told him, ‘Don't let them take your house.’ I offered to help him in any way I could… now this. It’s just so sad.”