Fire Spark To Remain A Mystery

Investigator to list cause as undetermined
Smoke billowed from several Main Street buildings, including the Sag Harbor Cinema on Dec. 16. Michael Heller

The cause of the fire on Sag Harbor’s Main Street, which led to the demolition of two buildings, including the iconic front of the Sag Harbor Cinema, may never be known.

Tom Baker, an East Hampton Town fire marshal leading the investigation, said Tuesday afternoon that he was wrapping up his investigation and working to complete his final report on the Dec. 16 fire. He has uncovered nothing new since revealing two weeks ago that he could not pinpoint exactly what sparked the devastating blaze, but that he felt certain there was no criminality involved. The cause will be listed as undetermined.

“That’s where I’m comfortable leaving it. The insurance companies have all been to their respective buildings and done what they needed to do,” Mr. Baker said. He does not plan to conduct any more interviews or visit the sites again barring any new information from the public.

In the days after the fire, there were reports that cigarettes were to blame, but Mr. Baker shot down that theory. He found charring when he pulled apart the wooden steps leading to the Compass real estate office at the back of 84 Main Street.  Telephone and cable lines were found behind the steps, but he said he believed that a cigarette could not have made it into this area.

The building at 84 Main Street was demolished just three days after the fire, following a decision by Thomas Preiato, the village building inspector, based on its compromised structural integrity. The front portion of the Sag Harbor Cinema had been demolished the night of the fire. Both demolitions made the investigations more difficult, the fire marshal has said.

Meanwhile, as of Tuesday afternoon, the building at 96 Main Street, which housed the Brown Harris Stevens real estate office, remained standing, despite questions over its structural integrity. An engineer’s report was ordered before Christmas, and while an engineer had visited the site, the building owner had not yet furnished village officials with the report, Mr. Preiato said, which he said is a cause of concern.

According to Mr. Preiato, the brick walls are compromised and the roof is open to the elements. “The condition only worsens as more rain falls on what is left standing,” he said, adding that he is going to seek advice from counsel on the next steps.