After a fire engulfed Dante Cosentino’s home in North Merrick on May 10, he recalled sifting through the ash and debris to find family photos knocked out of their frames and shattered “little ornaments.”
“You connect them each to a memory of how you got them,” he said.
The North Merrick Fire Department was able to save three cats from the blaze that tore through the Cosentino home, at 1228 Powell Ave., last Wednesday. The family includes Dante; his wife, Lisa; and their two adult children, Matthew, 28, and Marissa, 26. They are all now staying at Lisa’s parents’ house in North Bellmore.
“This wasn’t a tragedy because I’m alive [and] my family’s alive,” Dante said. “I can’t call it a tragedy.”
On the morning of the fire, Dante woke up to see his kitchen in flames and immediately evacuated the home with his wife. A neighbor, Jessy Bressler, saw smoke billowing from the back of the house and called the North Merrick Fire Department. John Scalesi, a member of the County Firemen's Association and Dante’s friend for 40-plus years, was first to arrive. He ran into the house with no protective gear and let out the family’s two dogs, Trixie and Nellie. Scalesi said that several neighbors came to his assistance.
According to Chris Fasano, the North Merrick Fire Department’s second assistant chief, Bressler’s call came in at 9:39 a.m. By the time fire volunteers arrived, the Cosentinos and their dogs were out of the house. “Dante Cosentino was exiting from the back when I got here,” Fasano said. “He told me… there were eight cats in the basement.”
Five of the cats died in the fire. Volunteers resuscitated the remaining three — Mischief, Mickey and Owhacky — giving them oxygen and chest compressions on the lawn. Firefighters also saved Dante’s lizard, Matisse, which he thought had died in the fire.
“We wouldn’t be able to do it without the help of everyone involved,” said Skylar Fasano, the second assistant chief’s daughter, who was among the volunteers to revive the Cosentinos’ cats.
At 10:55 a.m., Fasano walked out of the house for the first time, his face and hands covered in ash. With assistance from the North Bellmore, East Meadow and Roosevelt fire departments, the North Merrick department was able to extinguish the blaze, but the house still sustained heavy damage to the kitchen, attic and back porch. The Merrick, Bellmore and East Meadow fire departments were on standby.
Cosentino hired Milro Incorporated to reconstruct his house and said that his family’s next step will be to find a rental home until they can move back in. “It’s exhausting, all of this,” he told the Herald in front of his house before an employee from Milro came out and handed him a silver medallion that was found in the wreckage. It was from Matthew Cosentino’s first holy communion.
When friends of Matthew and Marissa Cosentino heard about the fire, they surprised the family at Lisa’s parent’s house with a big dinner. Among them was Erin O’Byrne, who set up a Gofundme page to help the family raise the necessary funds to recover. As of May 15, the fundraiser, which can be found at www.gofundme.com/the-cosentino-family, raised $3,280 of its $25,000 goal.