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Displaced by fire, Ronkonkoma apartment residents seek belongings

Many can't get into their homes because of safety concerns. Police are still investigating the fire's cause.

Fire engulfs apartments in Building 29 of the

Fire engulfs apartments in Building 29 of the Colony Park complex in Ronkonkoma early Sunday. Photo Credit: Stringer News Service

Apartment residents displaced by a Ronkonkoma fire over the weekend waited in frustration Monday to see the damage done to their homes.

Mecca Williams, 22, said she needs clothes and other items for her daughter Samiah Smith, 4, whom she grabbed to escape the fire burning in Building 29 in the Colony Park complex. 

"She doesn't even have any shoes, that's how bad it was," said Williams, who has lived at Colony Park for two years. "She just keeps saying, 'I want to go home,' but we got to keep explaining to her right now we can't."

The fire extensively damaged Building 29, which has 16 apartments on two floors and is one of more than 30 apartment buildings in the complex, operated by the Commack-based Heatherwood Luxury Rentals. At least five apartments were destroyed and others sustained damage in the blaze that started shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday.

No one was seriously injured, but a mother was forced to drop her 20-month-old daughter from a second-floor balcony into her husband's arms.

As police arson detectives continued investigating the cause of the fire, about a dozen residents gathered Monday afternoon in the parking lot by their damaged homes. They were kept out by padlocks on their doors because their landlord and authorities were gauging the safety of the building.

"We're not being informed of what's going on," said Arthur Ferony, 72, who along with his wife and daughter is staying with his brother in Lake Grove. "We are here and there's no one from Heatherwood. Why isn't somebody here at Colony Park to appease the tenants? There are people here who haven't even changed their clothes."

Heatherwood officials did not return a call for comment Monday afternoon.

Residents have said they were alerted not by smoke alarms but by neighbors pounding on their doors or window. Islip Town officials said the complex has a valid, three-year multiple dwelling permit, which means it had passed spot checks of smoke detectors by the fire marshal's office, said spokeswoman Caroline Smith.

Under state law, the management company is responsible for maintaining and checking on smoke detectors twice a year, she said.

Tina Donegan, 53, said she lives near the first-floor apartment that burned. When she stopped by Monday morning, security guards kept her away from the place she's called home for 10 years. Inside are the belongings of her son and also of her mother, who died recently, she said.

"When I was there this morning, I said, 'That's my life there,'" said Donegan, her voice breaking. "I don't want my furniture. I just want my sentimental things."

With Chau Lam

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