MERIDEN — A fire at a home on Atkins Street Extension was intentionally set and is being investigated as arson, the fire marshal said Wednesday.
Around 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, firefighters received a call reporting heavy smoke coming from a residence at 244 Atkins St. Ext. Chief Ken Morgan said the first arriving crews declared it an active fire scene.
Firefighters who entered the home had trouble locating the fire initially because of heavy smoke and excessive heat. The fire was under control in less than 10 minutes.
On Wednesday, Fire Marshal Steve Trella said the fire is being investigated as arson by local authorities and state police. Trella said samples from the home were sent to the state laboratory for testing. The fire started on the first floor of the home and there was extensive damage to the first floor, he said. The home was boarded up and secured by a contractor out of concern for public safety.
City records list the property owners as Kristopher and Tiana Schonagel. Records show they purchased the property in 2015.
Ashley Schonagel, 29, of the same address, was arrested at the scene of the fire and charged with driving under the influence, improper lane and operating under suspension.
According to police reports, Ashley Schonagel drove to the scene of the fire while crews were working to extinguish the blaze. Police had several intersections blocked off and noted that Ashley Schonagel drove over a traffic cone and partially on a sidewalk trying to access Atkins Street Extension. Officers went to speak with Ashley Schonagel and she told them she lives on the street. Officers saw four empty alcohol “nip” containers in the vehicle and four more closed “nips” in a brown paper bag, the report said.
She refused to perform field sobriety tests and was taken into custody. Officers said during the time Ashley Schonagel was on the scene she was recording the Fire Department and interfering with crews extinguishing the fire.
According to the bail commissioner, she has a pending DUI charge and convictions for charges including reckless endangerment and an Illinois conviction for aggravated battery. The judge set bond at a total of $30,000 and ordered an evaluation for a treatment program. The case was continued to Sept. 12.
Kristopher Schonagel, 30, was charged with animal cruelty in a separate incident last month after police said he killed a dog at the home. He was released on a promise to appear and is due back in court on Friday.