Suspicious fire damages house
Assistant City Editor
Published July 19 2007
NORWALK - Fire gutted a two-family house in central Norwalk hours after police raided its first-floor apartment and arrested three people on drug charges.
The fire, which broke out shortly before 5 p.m. at 4 Aiken St., was characterized as suspicious and was under investigation.
No one was injured in the blaze, but a kitten was killed, firefighters said. An iguana named Blue and two baby snakes were unaccounted for. Five other cats were removed from the apartment by animal control officers after the police raid shortly before noon.
Apartment tenants Zachary Zamfino, 22, and Heather Kruger, 25, were arrested along with Matt Gabrielson, 31, of unknown address. All three are charged with drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of prescription drugs. Kruger and Gabrielson each were held yesterday on $50,000 bond.
Zamfino also faces a criminal mischief charge for allegedly damaging a jail cell at police headquarters, where he was being held yesterday on $52,500 bond.
"This is a nightmare," Patricia Zamfino, 58, said as she watched smoke billow out of the window of her son's room. Zamfino said she was trying to get into the apartment to care for the pets when she left to meet a bail bondsman to free her son.
Zamfino suspected that heat lights for the iguana may have been turned over by the earlier raid and sparked the fire.
Lt. Peter Randall, who led the raid as head of the police department's vice and drug squad, said officers steered clear of the iguana and the snakes. Randall said the apartment was in "utter disarray" when police entered and disputed Patricia Zamfino's claims that officers tore apart the dwelling looking for drugs.
"If we tore the place apart, it would have wound up better than when we arrived," Randall said. "It was one of the messier places we've ever been in."
Fire Department Deputy Chief Kenneth Ehlers said the clutter made it difficult to contain the blaze to a single room.
Despite their efforts, the house was deemed uninhabitable last night, displacing 29-year-old Corrie Todd and her dog.
Ehlers said the earlier arrests at the house raised his suspicions about the fire's cause.
"We have an inspector looking into it, but it seems the origin might be suspicious," Ehlers said. "With the other activity here, it seems too much of a coincidence. We'll definitely give it a good look."