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Garage owner faces fines in Whitman fire

By Debbie Seele, Enterprise correspondent
WHITMAN - A man who burned down his own garage to save money in demolition costs is in for an expensive lesson in fire safety after officials filed court charges to seek restitution and payment of fines.

After an investigation by the Whitman Fire-Rescue Department, Whitman Police Detective Tim Hanlon filed charges against Paul Zakrzewski, 53, of 144 Bank St., Abington, charging him with setting a fire in the open.

Fire-Rescue Lt. Lloyd Plasse, who investigated the March 5 fire at 154 Plymouth St., said Zakrzewski admitted to burning down his garage after taking out a permit to burn brush at his property.

"He figured he would use the brush permit to dispose of his garage so he wouldn't have to take it to a landfill," said Plasse.

Plasse said fire and police were called to the scene after residents reported black smoke in the area.

Firefighters arrived to find the remains of a 13-foot by 14-foot garage still on fire.

Plasse said Zakrzewski was not charged with arson because he had no intent to defraud his insurance company.

"He was trying to save himself some money, but in the long run it will cost him some money," said Plasse.

Plasse did not have final figures for the amount of restitution being sought by the police and fire departments, but said the Fire Department had to call in extra manpower to fight the blaze.

Complicating the situation, the fire station received the call for Zakrzewski's garage fire just as multiple emergency calls came into the station, which increased the number of personnel needed.

Jennifer Mieth, spokesperson for the state fire marshal's office, said Zakrzewski will face a $500 fine or 30 days in jail plus restitution for the cost of fighting the fire.

Mieth said the state sees just a few cases of this type each year, because most cases of this type are full-fledged arson cases.

"It is going to be a lot more money than it would have cost to tear the whole thing down and dispose of it in a proper manner," said Plasse.

Zakrzewski could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
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