The Brentwood Fire Department responds to a house fire on...

The Brentwood Fire Department responds to a house fire on Sherman Street in Brentwood on May 12. Credit: Paul Mazza

A Brentwood firefighter charged with third-degree arson intentionally set a fire that ravaged a home last month, according to court records.

John Kovalsky, 24, set the fire that damaged the Sherman Street home in Brentwood by igniting paper towels and placing them underneath a picnic table against a wall, according to a May 14 felony complaint.

Kovalsky admitted he set the fire, according to a Suffolk police detective who signed the complaint. Kovalsky's attorney, Ira Weissman of Central Islip, declined to comment Monday.

Michael Savino, a 20-year FDNY veteran whose family has owned the home for more than 50 years, said he was devastated to learn the fire May 12 had allegedly been set by a fellow firefighter.

“It is bad enough that the house is on fire but the fact that it was deliberately set was a double blow,” Savino said. “To learn that this may have been set by someone who fights fires is like getting kicked three times."

“It is infuriating that someone who fights fires and knows the dangers would set a fire,” Savino added.

Suffolk County District Judge Gaetan B. Lozito set bail for Kovalsky at $35,000 bond or $15,000 cash. Kovalsky is scheduled to return to court July 22.

The Brentwood Fire District launched its own investigation after it learned about the charges on May 14, the agency said in a statement.

“Though the individual charged with this crime enjoys the right to a presumption of innocence," the statement said, "due to the very serious nature of these charges the individual will be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation."

Savino said his family was still reeling from the death of his father, a World War II veteran also named Michael Savino, earlier this year when his childhood home was damaged by fire. 

Savino said insurance will cover the damage to the home and furnishings, but photos and other family treasures are gone forever.

“My sisters’ wedding dresses were in the attic,” Savino said. “How do you replace something like that?”

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