Montville - Court records show the owner of an Oakdale day care center that went up in flames Monday was deep in debt and is scheduled to lose the building during a January foreclosure sale.
The license to operate the Creative Care Day Care Center at 1127 Old Colchester Road was also inactive as of Wednesday. It's unclear if the business was currently still in operation; it was unoccupied when the 5:40 p.m. fire began. The blaze set off an automatic fire alarm.
No cause of the fire has been released, but Fire Marshal Raymond Occhialini said it started outside the building in the area of the front door of the 2,450-square-foot structure. The location of the origin of the fire raised suspicions it may have been intentionally set, Occhialini said.
"Usually, say, with an outside fire at a hotel, it could have started because someone was smoking and threw their cigarette in a mulch pile or something," he said. "But outside the building, there was no mulch, just grass and sidewalk, and nobody smokes."
Occhialini called in the state police, who used an accelerant-detecting K-9 during an origin-and-cause search of the fire scene. Results of that search have yet to be released, and no cause has been announced. State police say the fire remains under investigation.
Wendy Summers opened the business in February 2003. Online records show she once ran a day care out of her Partridge Hollow home. Her husband, Joseph Summers, once served as an assistant building official for the town of Montville.
Neither could be reached for comment Wednesday.
Occhialini said there were three children enrolled at the Old Colchester Road day care when he did an inspection this summer. According to online records, a license granted to the business in November 2003 said it served children who ranged in age from 6 weeks to 12 years, with a maximum capacity of 44. There is no date specified for when the license went inactive or was withdrawn.
The license's most recent activity was an unannounced inspection on May 31.
Records show the Summers family lost a home to foreclosure in August and owe several thousand of dollars in property taxes.
The day care building and property, with a fair market value of $290,000, is scheduled for a Jan. 26 foreclosure sale. The original foreclosure complaint was filed in April 2011. The most recent action on the complaint was Monday.
Hours later, the building caught fire and became "a total loss," Oakdale Fire Chief Gary Murphy said.