A former Long Beach firefighter repairing his godfather's home accidentally started a minor blaze Monday, and city officials issued two code summonses in what he called a "vendetta" by city officials.
Gregory Kavazanjian, 28, was cited for working without a contractor's license and for making renovations without a permit at a Boyd Street house, Long Beach officials said.
"The fire was started by the carelessness of an unlicensed contractor who was doing work without any building permits," said Scott Kemins, the fire and building commissioner.DataLI crime stats
But Kavazanjian said he is not a contractor and is one of several paid firefighters laid off this year by Long Beach.
Three weeks ago, the firefighters' union sued the city to get three men rehired, including Kavazanjian.
"The city has a vendetta against me," he said. "I'm not a contractor. I don't have a crew. They're trying to blow it way out of proportion."
In a story confirmed by his godfather, Kavazanjian said he was helping him replace a second-floor deck that had rotted further after superstorm Sandy, dripping rainwater down into his godfather's bedroom.
Kavazanjian said ash from his cigarette likely started a cedar shingle smoldering and he doused the wall using a garden hose. Only a square foot patch of wall was damaged, he said, and he called the fire department to bring a thermal imaging camera, which can detect sparks smoldering in the wall.
Firefighters arrived just after 2:35 p.m. and officials cited "human error" as the cause, city officials said.
When Kemins arrived, Kavazanjian hurled insults, including calling him a "coward," said city spokesman Gordon Tepper.
Kavazanjian, who now works for a Westchester fire department, said he did utter a few "choice" words to Kemins.
For more than a year, Long Beach's paid and volunteer firefighters have been at odds. Meetings at City Hall have devolved into shouting matches between firefighters and city officials.
Rob Agostisi, corporation counsel for the city, said depending on the work, Kavazanjian may still need a permit: "The city denies in the strongest terms that there is some sort of vendetta."
Tepper said Kavazanjian had been hired as a firefighter in March 2011 and had been arrested on a charge of criminal possession of stolen city property and of shoplifting electrical items from Home Depot.
Kavazanjian said that was part of the vendetta, and he and city officials differed on the outcome of those cases. Those court records were not found, which could mean the charges were dismissed or he had pleaded guilty to violations.
Kavazanjian is due in Long Beach City Court on July 17.