Greenfield man arrested in Shelburne arson
Shelburne Center, Shelburne Falls, Ashfield, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Greenfield and South Deerfield fire departments responded to a fire at this house on Barnard Road in Shelburne Center on Tuesday night. A Greenfield man has been charged in the investigation.
Shelburne Center, Shelburne Falls, Ashfield, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Greenfield and South Deerfield fire departments responded to a fully involved house fire on Barnard Rd in Shelburne Center.
State Fire Marshals Joseph Gura with K9 Nell, Michael Maza and Michael O’Neil sift through the second floor of the burned out home on Barnard Rd in Shelburne Center on Wednesday Morning.
SHELBURNE — Just two hours after a house fire was reported Tuesday night, police had an arson suspect in custody, the estranged husband of the homeowner.
Jeremiah Longe, 32, of 41 Norwood St., Greenfield, was arrested at 1:15 Wednesday morning, on a charge of arson of a dwelling.
The house, at 247 Barnard Road, belongs to Sarah Hannigan, who was not home, but had tenants living there. It sustained heavy damage, but nobody was injured as the tenants had left when smoke detectors went off. Wednesday afternoon, it was being taken down by excavators, which cleared the way for the Fire Marshal Office’s accelerant-sniffing K-9s to investigate.
The tenant’s apartment, attached to the main house, was largely unharmed by the fire. Shelburne Deputy Fire Chief Jim Burnham said he was unsure if or when the tenants of the house would be able to return.
Longe was located at his mother’s Norwood Street house, where he had been staying.
After being taken into custody by Greenfield and state police, the suspect initially denied his involvement in the fire. Later, though, he confessed to pouring 10 gallons of gasoline throughout a second-floor bedroom, according to Trooper Kyle Gleick’s report.
The suspect suffered burns to his face and left wrist, as well as his hair and facial hair, when he lit the fire, wrote Gleick. He was seen to by an ambulance crew, but refused further treatment.
Longe was arraigned Wednesday in Greenfield District Court, and held without bail, pending a dangerousness hearing Friday.
Wednesday afternoon, Hannigan’s contractor, Scott Dupuis, was on the scene, surveying the wreckage of the house, which he was nearly finished renovating.
“It’s just a shame,” he said. “She just sunk a ton of money into the house.”
Dupuis, who owns Dupuis Carpentry LLC of Wilmington Vt., said his crew had less than a week’s worth of work to go. His crew had built a large, timber-framed wrap-around porch, re-sided the house, installed large new windows and replaced the existing ones as well.
Dupuis said Hannigan spared no expense, opting for Douglas fir timbers, costly composite decking, and other high-end building materials. The entire project, he said, cost about $80,000, and she had more work planned.
“It was really coming together, it was a beautiful house,” he said.
Dupuis said Hannigan took pride in her house, buying it as a fixer-upper in 2010.
“It was really nice inside too, and she kept it super clean,” he said. “It makes me sick to my stomach to see it all go up in flames. She’s such a nice person.”
Dupuis said Hannigan had pet cats, and one of them has been seen since the fire. The others, he hopes, will follow suit.
Hannigan’s neighbors, who did not want to be named, said they would do whatever they could to help Hannigan.
“I feel heartsick for her,” said one. “We just loved what she was doing with the house. She just had the nicest front porch put on.”
“It was heartbreaking to watch it burn,” said another. “I can’t imagine what she’s going through.”
Dupuis said Hannigan’s home was insured, and that he hopes to help her rebuild.
“That’s up to her and the insurance company, though,” he said.
Timeline of events
The homeowner, Hannigan, was out of the state on vacation at the time of the fire. She lived in one side of the house, and rented the rest.
Her tenant, Erika Sawyer, was home with her young daughter, and started to smell gasoline around 6 p.m., wrote Gleick. When the odor remained hours later, she contacted the homeowner, who called state police at 10:40 p.m.
By then, the building’s smoke alarms had started to go off, and Sawyer shut off the oil burner’s emergency switch, woke her daughter, and left the resident, according to a statement given by Sawyer.
When she left her apartment at about 10 p.m., she saw Longe outside, smoking a cigarette, she wrote.
Sgt. Greg Bardwell, of the Shelburne Police Department, was the first to respond. While driving to the scene, Bardwell saw a Dodge Nitro, which he knew to belong to Longe, driving away from the house, wrote Gleick.
Bardwell ran the vehicle’s plates, and confirmed that it was registered to Longe.
When Bardwell reached the house, its front door was wide open, and flames could be seen coming out of the second story windows, and he called the fire department, wrote Gleick.
Bardwell then opened a kennel in the rear of the house, and was able to get the dogs out safely.
When firefighters arrived, said Burnham, the south side of the house was fully involved.
Police called the homeowner, who said Longe had attacked her in the past, and she believed he started the fire, wrote Gleick.
She told Gleick that her estranged husband was supposed to come by earlier to pick up some things, but shouldn’t have been at the house that late, according to the report.
She then told Gleick where Longe had been staying after he moved out of the home they once shared.
Longe was found at the Norwood Street home, where he consented to a search of his vehicle. According to Gleick, an accelerant-detection K-9 indicated an odor of accelerants on the truck’s floor mats, as well as the suspect’s shoes.
As Longe was being arrested, firefighters from Shelburne Center, Shelburne Falls, Colrain, Ashfield, Greenfield, Charlemont, Buckland and South Deerfield were still on-scene in Shelburne. Burnham said the fire was declared under control at about 1 a.m. Wednesday.
David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279