Fire erupts from crematorium at Stamford funeral home
STAMFORD — An apparent wiring short in a crematory chamber appears to be the cause of a fire that broke out at Cognetta’s Funeral Home in Stamford early Monday evening.
Firefighters’ quick response contained the fire to the malfunctioning chamber, leaving only a small amount of water and smoke damage at the Myrtle Avenue business.
Capt. Philip Hayes said Stamford Fire Engine 4 from the East Side Fire Station was returning from an emergency call at about 6:40 p.m. when firefighters observed heavy smoke coming from the area of Myrtle Avenue and Frederick Street.
The engine arrived at the funeral home about a minute later and reported thick, black smoke billowing from a chimney in the center of the building, Hayes said. Smoke was also observed coming from a basement entrance at the rear. Firefighters stretched a 2-1/2 inch hose line into the basement, where they discovered a malfunctioning crematory chamber.
Chief Fire Marshal Walter Seely said the door to the chamber malfunctioned during a cremation, sending smoke and heat into the building.
“The door suddenly opened during the process and the fire began coming out of the cremation chamber,” Seely said. “An employee tried to close the door using the manual control panel,” but the door did not respond and remained open.
Arriving firefighters were able to force the door closed, which mitigated damage to the building, Seely said.
Funeral home owner Nicholas Cognetta blamed the malfunction on the current health crisis. With its two crematory chambers, his facility has been serving families of the deaceased in the state, but also assisting Westchester County to keep up with the demand there in dealing with the dead.
He said there was a week or two-week wait to cremate bodies there. “We are trying to help them out, otherwise there will be another health issue,” he said.
“We have been taxing these machines with corona needs,” he said.
As a result of the heavy use, the crematory chamber became overheated, he said, which melted some wires causing a short circuit, which causing the door to open prematurely.
“We have never had the same demand as we have had in these past three weeks,” Cognetta said. “It was simply a malfunction.”
The chamber was fixed and in operation again Tuesday.
“The electrician was here till midnight last night ,” he said.
Twenty-two firefighters arriving on three Engines, one Ladder Truck, one Rescue, and one Incident Commander worked quickly to bring the fire under control, Hayes said
Stamford EMS stood by at the scene but were not needed.
Cognetta's Funeral Home and Crematory has been family owned since 1953.
It is is the only funeral home in Stamford with a crematory on the premises.