Fish House Destroyed By Fire

Waterfront saved by volunteers’ quick work
A fire destroyed the packing house at the Montauk Fish Dock early Friday morning
A fire destroyed the packing house at the Montauk Fish Dock early Friday morning. It will be rebuilt. Morgan McGivern

    A fire that broke out at the Montauk Fish Dock next to Gosman’s in the early morning hours on Friday gutted a dockside structure that housed waxed fish boxes, scales, a forklift, and the office of the business that ships all of Montauk’s tilefish landings, worth millions of dollars each year.
    “It was like a building full of candles,” said Richard Schoen, chief of the Montauk Fire Department, referring to the building’s supply of waxed boxes. “The primary concern was the fire spreading to adjacent boats and buildings.”
    In all, eight trucks responded to the blaze. A strong southwest wind rekindled the fire early Saturday morning.
    The Fish Dock also packs out and ships the catch of small draggers. Paul Farnham, the business owner, leased the old structure from the Perry B. Duryea and Son company, located on Fort Pond Bay in Montauk.
    Mr. Farnham said on Sunday that he was able to continue packing out boats because the Fish Dock’s cooler and ice machine, located outside the main structure, were not damaged. The packing house itself was gutted in the fire and will have to be torn down. It has a storied history.
    On the morning of Sept. 1, 1951, the 42-foot party boat Pelican left the Fishangri-la dock on Fort Pond Bay for a day of fishing, overloaded with 62 fishermen. At just after 2 p.m. the Pelican capsized with the loss of 45 lives. The bodies of the dead were brought back to Montauk Harbor and placed on ice in the packing house.
    Perry B. (Chip) Duryea III said the late Alvin McDonald ran a shipping business and a small retail fish market from there at the time. William Pell, who owned a shipping dock on the North Fork, leased the building for a while, and Bill Vorpahl Sr., the former owner of Stuart’s Seafood in Amagansett, ran the V and H Fisheries from there. Mr. Duryea said the structure would be rebuilt.
    East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson arrived at the scene on Saturday morning. “When I heard about it I called Pat Gunn, head of code enforcement, and told him to do as much as possible to help. It’s a 12-month business, but they are coming into the heavy part of the season. It’s incredibly important to the town to sustain the business. We can’t afford to allow a business interruption of any scale to a guy like Paul. Any hiccup can hurt his business,” Mr. Wilkinson said yesterday.
    The supervisor praised the fire department and the Inlet Seafood dock, the largest of three fish-shipping businesses that make Montauk’s fishing port the busiest in the state, for quickly offering help to Mr. Farnham.