Fire Burns a Hole in Floor

Firefighters found a hole that a fire had burned in the first floor of a house on Old Stone Highway in Springs. Michael Heller

The East Hampton Town fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause of a fire that broke out in the basement of a house at 21 Old Stone Highway in Springs on Sunday afternoon. Officials are looking into whether there was an electrical problem in the area, because the Springs Presbyterian Church and Ashawagh Hall, which are nearby, reported electrical problems.

The fire, which originated in the basement, burned a hole in the first floor of the two-story house before firefighters arrived, Springs Fire Department Chief Ryan Balnis said on Monday morning. “The house was locked up,” he said, and no one was home. “Smoke was coming from the soffits and chimney . . . you could tell the place was full of smoke.”

Firefighters broke into the house through the front door and extinguished the little bit of fire they found. The chief said there was mostly smoke. About three feet into the house, they realized there was a hole in the first floor, in the center of the living room.

“There was zero visibility,” Chief Balnis said. “Luckily, the guys we had go in on the first line, they checked the floor and found the hole and backed out.”

Dwayne Denton, an East Hampton Town fire marshal who investigated with Tom Baker, said the hole was about 10 by 12 feet. “Springs did a good job. They relied on their training,” he said. Had they not been careful to check that the floor was sound, they easily could have fallen through and been injured, he said.

Since the first floor was compromised, the firefighters found another way into the basement through a Bilco door on the side of the house and doused the fire from there.

“It was a great stop for us,” Chief Balnis said of saving the house. Aside from the hole in the floor, there was mostly smoke and water damage.

The cause of the fire remained undetermined as of yesterday, according to Mr. Denton. He said there was “a little electrical issue” at the church and at Ashawagh Hall, which is 200 to 300 yards away from the house. At both places, he said, the lights went dim and then got very bright. At the church, the electrical service wires got hot, melted, and dropped from the structure, he said.

The Springs Fire Department received assistance from the Amagansett and East Hampton Fire Departments. No injuries were reported.

Tax records show that Kevin Bishop owns the property. He has not been home recently, Mr. Denton said.