An off-duty fireman driving near 168 Long Lane in East Hampton last Thursday afternoon spotted smoke coming from a barn there, went to investigate, and called in an alarm which ultimately involved the East Hampton, Springs, Amagansett, and Sag Harbor Fire Departments.
“We know that something catastrophic with the electrical system occurred,” said Tom Baker, an East Hampton fire marshal, said Tuesday. “It was an underground service to the building. Something happened in the exposed area of cable,” he said, explaining that a three-foot section of exposed conduit disintegrated in the combustion.
The burning barn presented an obstacle to East Hampton Fire Department Chief Tom Bono and those deployed at the scene. Normally firefighters try to surround a burning structure and fight the fire from different sides. But in this case, Mr. Bono said, “It was kind of hard to get to the fire. There were trees on one side and a Quonset hut on the other.”
The company deployed its ladder truck, getting over the top of the burning roof, and blasted water straight down. They brought the water in from both an older electric well nearby, and also ran a hose to the nearest hydrant, 3,000 feet away.
In the end the roof of the barn was destroyed, as was much of the second floor, which was used by a landscaping company. The first floor was saved, however. It took nearly three hours to put the fire out.
Mr. Baker is still searching for the cause, working with an insurance inspector and consulting with outside agencies. He said that even though much of the first floor was saved, the building may have to be demolished.
Sag Harbor sent down its rapid-intervention-team truck, used to extract firefighters from perilous circumstances, which, fortunately, was not needed. Firefighters from Amagansett were deployed in the fight. The Springs truck was kept in reserve.
A second fire this past week happened in the Clearwater Beach section of Springs, at 180 Waterhole Road, a little before 5 a.m., Sunday morning. Stanley Dalene and his family were awakened by a fire that crept up the side of the house, toward the roof. Mr. Baker, who is a Springs fireman, was on the scene, first with his fire hat on, then as fire marshal.
Mr. Dalene, who used a fire extinguisher on the blaze and then, when the canister was exhausted, a garden hose, may well have saved the house, said Mr. Baker.
In searching for the cause of the fire, Mr. Baker said he had found some remnants of cigars. Mr. Dalene is a cigar smoker, and a smoldering cigar, which can stay lit for a long time, may have blown out of an ashtray on the second-floor deck and fallen to the base of the siding, eventually igniting a flame, Mr. Baker indicated.