A Selden Fire Department volunteer’s house went up in flames Tuesday night when a driver allegedly impaired by drugs crashed into it, igniting a blaze that was fanned by a broken gas line, a fire department official said.
“It was a pretty hot fire,” said Selden Fire Department Chief Joe Leavens. “With a broken gas line, it was a gas-fed fire.”
Suffolk County police said the blaze on Choate Avenue was sparked by the crash, which occurred just before 7:15 p.m. The driver, 35-year-old Anthony Capuano of Selden, who pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday on charges of driving while ability impaired by drugs and reckless endangerment, lost control of a red pickup truck, police said, and crashed into a natural gas line in the home.
The firefighter’s family—his wife and two young children—were in an upstairs bathroom when they heard an “explosion” and then ran out to safety, Leavens said.
The fire department responded three minutes after the call and found the flames burning the exterior of the home before it made its way into the house. The crash knocked down electric lines and ruptured both the gas line and water supply. The truck was also fully engulfed by flames. There was “extensive damage” to the house, Leavens said.
The gas line rupture required firefighters to wait for National Grid to shut off the gas before they were able to fully get the blaze under control. The fire was put out 45 minutes after the incident, officials said.
The firefighter, Michael Cosgrove, a 17-year veteran of the Selden Fire Department, was training when the call came in, Leavens said. The caller identified the wrong address but volunteers quickly realized they were dealing with a member’s home.
“They’re upset because they lost everything,” Leavens said of the family. He described Cosgrove as “angry” because the fire was caused by “someone’s stupidity.”
“We’re like family so whatever it takes we’ll do,” the fire chief said of assisting Cosgrove’s family.
A judge set Capuano’s bail at $20,000 cash and $100,000 bond.
“I got a call from several members of the community supporting Mr. Capuano,” the driver’s lawyer said of his client who was wearing a black jacket and blue and black pajamas during his arraignment.
Results from Capuano’s blood test regarding the alleged drugs in his system are still pending.
-With Timothy Bolger