A fire severely damaged four apartments at a Ronkonkoma complex Friday morning, displacing about 16 families on New Year’s Day, authorities said.
Officers and firefighters responded to the blaze at the Colony Park apartment complex around 10:45 a.m., police said. No one was injured, and residents of eight units were evacuated.
Police said the cause is under investigation by Suffolk County Police Arson Section detectives, who also investigated a fire at the same complex on 500 Peconic St. less than two years ago.
In March of 2019, Jenna Schlick was trapped by the fire and had to drop her then-20-month-old daughter from a second-floor balcony into the arms of her husband on the ground. Schlick and another man were treated for minor injuries.
After the fire, the Schlick family lived in a hotel for about six months before settling in an apartment complex in Bohemia.
"The feeling of being displaced and losing everything — the aftermath of that is just terrible," Schlick said in a phone interview Friday. "I can only feel for those people, especially during COVID now where the world is not the safest place. You will have to worry about where you are going to live and having to go out and buy new things down to just even a toothbrush."
Hearing the news of a second fire has stirred up a lot of emotions that left Schlick crying on New Year’s Day, she said.
"It brought us right back to that moment," the 31-year-old mother said. "When it happens to you, it’s one of the scariest moments of your life. … It’s changed our lives in many ways."
The complex has more than 30 apartment buildings and is operated by the Commack-based Heatherwood Luxury Rentals, whose office did not return a call Friday seeking comment.
As of late Friday afternoon, Michael de Vulpillieres, communications officer at American Red Cross on Long Island, said in texts that the humanitarian organization has connected with 10 families, two of which declined assistance. The remaining six families were not on scene and could be connected with the organization later.
The Red Cross is helping eight families, including 14 adults and 13 children, find temporary shelter and assist with their other emergency needs, he said. The organization has distributed blankets, toys and hygiene items.
Check back for updates on this developing story.