Police Seek Suspect In Community Center Fire
Newtown Police are seeking an individual that caused a fire in an exterior bathroom of the Community Center Sunday night.
Fire Marshal Richard Frampton said that the fire was started at around 6:20 pm when "someone lit the trash on fire." The police are seeking help in identifying a person of interest in connection with the arson investigation. The individual is described as a clean shaven white male, who is 20 to 30 years of age.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact Detective Richard Monckton at 203-270-4239.
Newtown Hook & Ladder Chief Chris Ward said the initial dispatch was for the odor of smoke at the Community Center, but while en route, they received a second call from the center's staff saying there was smoke in the building. The call was upgraded to a structure fire call which put all five companies on alert.
Hook & Ladder sent an engine and ladder truck and Sandy Hook Fire sent a ladder truck. There were 13 firefighters on scene while the other companies were held in quarters.
Ward expressed gratitude to the community center staff for their assistance in evacuating the occupants on the building.
"I want to remind people that when an alarm goes off, they should evacuate the building," said Ward.
The actual fire took approximately one minute to put out; the fire had been set in a trash receptacle, said Ward. However, there was extensive smoke damage to the bathroom.
Community Center Director Matt Ariniello said that the fire appeared to have been caused intentionally. He said the damage to the room was a "total loss" and the bathroom would have to be completely redone.
The Community Center building filled with smoke and center staff "had to do some work last night" to get the smoke out of the building.
"Hopefully the police department will catch whoever did this," said Ariniello.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said it was good that an employee was in the building and did the right thing by calling 911.
"They smelled burning plastic and were wondering what it was," said Rosenthal. "Unfortunately that same smell was pulled into the HVAC system."
Rosenthal said that the soot was cleaned up but there was some smoke damage to the building.
"It could have been much worse," said Rosenthal. "No one was hurt and the physical damage could have been much worse without the wise move by the employees."
Rosenthal said he hoped the individual who caused the fire is found and held accountable.
"It's not an inexpensive issue," Rosenthal said. "The bathroom was destroyed and it could have done a lot more damage to the building."
Reporter Jim Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.