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FAIR HAVEN FIRE SPOTLIGHTS TEEN HANGOUT

doremus-houseOfficials intend to keep a closer eye on this vacant River Road property after a group of teenagers is suspected of starting a fire there last week. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A small fire on the property of a vacant River Road home last Thursday afternoon has opened the eyes of Fair Haven officials to a popular hangout spot for teenagers, who are suspected of having started the fire.

Fire Chief Jim Cerruti said firefighters responded at about 5p Thursday to a report of a fire at the former home of Olga Schwenker Doremus, who died in 2004. No one was there when the department arrived, but Cerruti suspects teenagers who set the fire. Aerosol cans were found at the scene.

“The house itself was not damaged,” he said. “It was like a camp fire, for lack of a better term.”

Last month, Zachary Buttler, a 15-year-old from the Belford section of Middletown, died after he fell from the roof of another vacant Fair Haven house that neighbors said was an attraction for teenagers.

Cerruti said the fire department hadn’t been called to the home since it was left vacant, shortly after Schwenker Doremus died. But after the fire Mayor Mike Halfacre said he learned that the property is an attractive place for teens to get together.

“I have become aware since last night that it has become a bit of a hot spot for kids,” he said Friday.

Halfacre said local officials would get in contact with the property owner, David Carr, to see if there is any way to deter teens from going there. Carr, who lives in town, had tried subdividing the property, which includes Schwenker’s Pond, in 2007. He also tried to donate the pond, which is heavily silted, to the borough, but officials didn’t want the financial and legal liability of ownership.

Carr could not be reached for comment on this story. Halfacre said he’s not sure what, if any, update there is on Carr’s plans for the property since his attempt to subdivide it three years ago.

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