NEW LONDON, Conn. (CN) – A woman claims a drunk fireman set her house on fire in the middle of the night to prove to his fellow firemen that he could fight “real” fires. Susan Ehrlich claims it was not the first time Mystic Fire District firefighter William Celtruda set a house on fire, and that another home he torched “was occupied by the owner and his two young children.”
Ehrlich claims in Superior Court that Celtruda was drinking on duty at the Hoxie Station on the night of July 24-25, 2008. She says his fellow firefighters – co-defendants Kyle Hilbert, Chris Paige, Brian Molkenthin and Nick Allyn – were teasing Celtruda by saying he had never fought a “real” structural fire.
She claims all five of them were drunk: “As a result of being intoxicated the defendants, Kyle Hilbert, Chris Paige, Brian Molkenthin, Nick Allyn and William Celtruda, suffered a diminishment of their judgment and faculties.”
The complaint adds: “Hilbert was the officer in charge at Hoxie Fire Station and during said time period he had the power and authority to control the operations of the Hoxie Company.”
In what proved to be an ominous sign, the complaint states: “At approximately 2:00 a.m. in the morning of July 25, 2008, the defendant, Kyle Hilbert and the defendant, William Celtruda, broke a plastic table in the meeting room of the Mystic Fire District, Hoxie Station.
“The defendants, Kyle Hilbert and William Celtruda, then removed the table outside and set the table on fire through the use of solvents cleaner and acetone.”
Ehrlich says the men retired to the bunkroom to sleep at about 3:30 a.m., but his co-workers prevented Celtruda from sleeping, so he left the fire station.
She claims that Celtruda, “in his drunken and intoxicated state,” drove Engine 52 from the fire station to 23 Library St., in Mystic, “where he set fire to the house,” which was “completely destroyed.”
But the complaint adds that Celtruda “continued to engage in drinking amongst peers and be the subject of scorn and hazing, despite his success at the Library Street fire,” so on Aug. 11-12, 2008, he did it again.
“He first set fire to 11 Little Gull in the Noank Fire Company area. Celtruda and the Mystic Fire District were not responsible to respond to the call,” the complaint states.
“Fortunately, the fire set on the night of August 11 and 12 presented little damage due to the quick response of the homeowner. The home was occupied by the owner and his two young children.
“On the evening of August 11, 2008, the Defendant, William Celtruda once again had a ‘few beers’ at the Hoxie Fire Station.
“At approximately 3:00 in the morning of August 12, 2008, William Celtruda proceeded to Ms. Ehrlich’s residence and once again sought to prove himself. Mr. Celtruda piled papers and decks chairs on Ms. Ehrlich’s deck stairs and ultimately set them ablaze. Ms. Ehrlich was asleep in her bedroom.
“As a result of the actions and/or inactions of the defendants and the resultant fire, the house located on the property was significantly damaged, all to the financial loss and detriment of the plaintiff, Ms. Susan Ehrlich.”
Ehrlich seeks damages on 26 counts, including negligence, wanton and reckless conduct and civil rights violations.
She is represented by Elizabeth Sabilia with Sabilia & Desantis of New London.