Friends, Community Support Displaced Fire Victims

By Andrew Wroblewski


Caitlyn Shea combs through the remains of her townhouse after a devastating fire destroyed her Melville home at The Villages West complex.

Caitlyn Shea combs through the remains of her townhouse after a devastating fire destroyed her Melville home at The Villages West complex.

Less than a week after a devastating fire destroyed their home, friends and community members have responded with donations to get Melville residents Chris Burke and Caitlyn Shea back on their feet.

The fire, which started at approximately 1:40 a.m., originated in an attic of the eight-unit townhouse complex in Melville’s Village West gated community, Huntington spokesman A.J. Carter said. Two of the townhouses suffered fire damage while the two below them suffered smoke and water damage, Suffolk County police said. On Tuesday police said the cause of the fire was undetermined but was thought to be non-criminal.

The entire building has been placarded, Carter said, forcing all those that live in the homes to find places to stay – including Burke, 28, and Shea, 29.

“We lost absolutely everything,” Shea said. “The roof caved in and all of the tar burned in with every object we own.”

Shea said the couple had lived in the complex for seven years after she won the townhouse in a lottery several years ago. In the days following the fire, the couple was searching for their two cats; they located the pair and said the felines were recovering. The couple’s dog, Chloe, is also safe.

Though the couple is devastated, their “guardian angel” has emerged, Shea said.

To help her friends, Liz Ward has assembled an online fundraiser using website GoFundMe: Ward is also in the process of planning an art benefit – expected to be hosted at The Whale’s Tale in Northport sometime in June or July – which she hopes will include contributions from local artists, such as Shea, and sponsorships from local businesses of the Town of Huntington.

“They’re both amazing people… so as soon as we found out what happened, we discussed what we could do to help them out,” Ward, who works with Burke at the Apple Retail Store in the Walt Whitman Shops, said. “I thought this would be an amazing opportunity to help them out and also to help some small businesses.”

Ward, a graduate of Harborfields High School, said Burke has always been the type of person to give back and help out when others are in need. She wanted to do the same for him in his and Shea’s time of need.

As of press time on Tuesday, $1,525 has been donated over the course of three days by 40 people.

“The response has been overwhelming,” Shea, originally from Huntington, said of the fundraising campaign. “Liz stepped up and has done everything perfectly. So many people have contributed; it’s funny because sometimes you don’t realize just how many people you have in your life until something like this happens.”

Donations can also be made through Paypal by visiting Art donations and items for the upcoming art benefit are also being accepted; for more information, contact