‘Gulps of Hot Air’ in Tuesday Fire

       Despite several challenges, firefighters quickly stopped a basement fire from spreading in a Northwest Woods house on Tuesday morning.

       East Hampton Fire Department volunteers rushed to 5 Chatfield’s Lane, off Rose Hill Road and Two Holes of Water Road, after the call went out at 11:27 a.m. Second Assistant Chief Chris Hren said he and an engine with only about five firefighters on board were just about to go back in service from a minor diesel spill from a garbage truck in the village when they were called to the structure fire.

       He arrived first to find the sole occupant, whose beard and eyebrows were singed from an attempt to put out the flames, “shoveling furiously” to free his minivan in the driveway. His vehicle had gotten stuck in the unplowed, snow-filled driveway, about 150 feet from the house at the intersection of a common drive, when he tried to move it down to the street to make room for the fire trucks, the chief said.

       Mr. Hren ran up to the 3,000-square-foot house to size up the fire and saw “a fair amount of smoke coming out of the house, but no visible flames,” he said, adding that he was knee-deep in snow as he went around the perimeter of the house. He radioed to the first arriving engine that the firefighters had to put an extension kit on the hose line so that they could drag it through the snow and to the house.

       With only about six firefighters on scene at first, they hooked up the hose, carried it up the driveway, and suited up, making it into the basement within 10 to 12 minutes. They knocked down the blaze minutes later, Mr. Hren said, saving the house from any structural damage. There is heavy smoke damage throughout, but fire damage was contained to the area of the basement.

       “Our guys did a good job,” he said. “They got the hoses to the front door quickly. Considering the weather conditions and the car getting stuck and everything, they did a great job.”

       The East Hampton Village Ambulance Association took the occupant of the house to Southampton Hospital for treatment of facial burns and smoke inhalation, Mr. Hren said. “He said he took a couple of good gulps of hot air” while trying to extinguish the fire on his own, Mr. Hren said.

       The man’s condition was not known by press time, and his name was not released.

       The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Tom Baker, an East Hampton Town fire marshal, said yesterday morning. “We’ve got our suspicions, but we’d like to wait to talk to the occupant,” he said.

       The chief was concerned about the water supply since that area is void of hydrants. They could have tapped into a cistern, but he also had tankers from his own department and the Sag Harbor Fire Department standing by. “We didn’t end up needing any more water. Fortunately, it wasn’t that big of a fire.”

       Mr. Hren also requested backup from the Sag Harbor Fire Department’s Rapid Intervention Team in case interior firefighters needed to be rescued.

       In total, about 40 firefighters responded, though it took them longer than usual to do so because Two Holes of Water Road was extremely icy, Mr. Hren said.

       The house is owned by Dorothy V. Dolan of New York City, according to the East Hampton Town tax receiver’s office. No one answered a phone call to the house yesterday.