A Toast to the Firefighters

About 150 firefighters from 16 departments across the East End fought the fire on Main Street in Sag Harbor on Dec. 16. Michael Heller photos

A party at Page at 63 Main restaurant in Sag Harbor on Sunday will serve as a thank-you to the volunteer firefighters who battled the Main Street blaze a week before Christmas and a fund-raiser for the Sag Harbor Fire Department.

Joe Traina, the restaurant owner, offered to hold a cocktail party for the 150 firefighters from more than a dozen departments that showed up on Dec. 16 when a fire erupted on Main Street, Sag Harbor Fire Department Chief Thomas Gardella said: “It’s a really nice gesture on his part — giving away food and drink to the firemen and creating a comfortable atmosphere for them.”

Though three buildings were destroyed, including the Sag Harbor Cinema, and three others damaged, the firefighters stopped the blaze from spreading further under strong wind conditions and frigid temperatures.

Any fire department member who responded to the fire that morning, along with emergency medical service personnel and police officers who were there, have been invited to Page for hors d’oeuvres, beer, and wine starting at 3 p.m. From 5 to 7 p.m., the doors will open to the public to raise money for the Fire Department. A free-will donation will be accepted at the door.

Photographs shot by Michael Heller, an East Hampton Fire Department photographer and the staff photographer at The Sag Harbor Express, will be on display and available for purchase, with proceeds to be donated to the department. Hampton Photo Arts in Bridgehampton has given him a discount on the printing of photographs ordered that night; prices will range from $35 to $75.

The money collected that night has not been slated for any one purpose yet. The department’s governing body, the board of wardens, will determine how the money is distributed.

Money raised goes into the department’s community charities fund, which it uses to fund scholarships and support other organizations like the Boy Scouts and charitable groups like the Suffolk County Burn Center. Chief Gardella said that in September, the department sponsored members and their families to participate in the Tunnel to Towers 5K race in New York City and donated $5,000 to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation in memory of one of the heroes of Sept. 11, 2001.

The money raised on Sunday will not be used to purchase firefighting equipment and trucks, something the Village of Sag Harbor does through taxes and contracts to provide services to hamlets outside the village.

The chief said the department has received “quite a few donations from people and thank-you letters — not just checks — thank-you cards, expressing their gratitude.”

“I’m proud of the guys and the job they did — all the departments. Everybody worked together really well. It’s a credit to those chiefs as well.”

Donations may also be sent to the Sag Harbor Fire Department at P.O. Box 209, Sag Harbor 11963. Credit card donations are not being accepted at this time.

Sag Harbor firemen pour water on the buildings involved in the pre-Christmas blaze.
East Hampton Fire Department's Gerard Turza, left, and Jamalia Hayes, right, who serve as the first and second assistant chiefs respectively, were among the firefighters who responded to Sag Harbor's fire.