Lightning Suspected in Amagansett House Fire

The smell of a burning roof was still evident a few hours after a fire started at a house at 62 Cross Highway in Amagansett on Saturday morning. David E. Rattray

Despite difficult weather conditions, firefighters quickly extinguished a fire at a bayfront house in Amagansett on Saturday morning that started with an apparent lightning strike, Amagansett Fire Chief Bill Beckert said. 

First responders were on their way to investigate a report of smoke in the area, which had come in at 6:41 a.m., when 911 dispatchers said they received a report that a roof was on fire at a house on Cross Highway, which is between the Devon Yacht Club and Fresh Pond, overlooking Gardiner's Bay. The chief and his brother, Chris Beckert, the department's second assistant chief, arrived about a minute later, within a few seconds of each other, and saw flames both in and outside the two-story house. 

The homeowner met them in the driveway. She told them that loud thunder, and likely the lightning strike, "shook her out of bed," Chief Beckert said. He was not sure who had called in the fire initially. 

Frequent lightning and heavy rains at times hindered the firefighters, Chief Beckert said. Firefighters were ordered off the house's roof at one point. Most of the efforts to fight the flames came from "an aggressive interior attack," he said.

The fire was not easy to get to either, due to tongue-and-groove interior construction. Even so, Chief Beckert said, firefighters were able to keep the flames to one bedroom. Part of a roof dormer was destroyed, and the room below experienced smoke and water damage, but the fire's effect on the rest of the house was minimal. 

"If the homeowner wasn't home and a neighbor called it in 15 minutes later, this would be a completely different story. We could have lost most of the house," Chief Beckert said. 

Springs firefighters assisted the Amagansett department at the scene. The East Hampton Fire Department stood by at Amagansett's firehouse in case there was another call. 

The National Weather Service predicted a chance of thunder through 9 p.m. Saturday. Rainfall was expected to decline to a chance by 2 p.m. There were severe thunderstorm warnings in western Suffolk and Nassau Counties on Saturday morning.

The bayfront house was saved after lightning struck it on Saturday morning. The fire chief said that if the homeowner had not been home, it could have been a different story.David E. Rattray