By Claire Walla
A blazing fire last Friday, February 10 in Wainscott claimed the life of William Bauer, 78, according to the Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad.
The Bridgehampton Fire Department was called out to the Cozy Cottages Complex at 395 Montauk Highway in Wainscott to respond to a fire at Unit 11 shortly after 6 p.m. First Assistant Fire Chief Gary Horsburgh, who had been at the intersection of Sagg Road and Route 27 when the call went out, was the first to arrive on the scene.
“It was totally engulfed when I got there,” Horsburgh said.
He wasn’t able to estimate how long the fire had been burning prior to his arrival. In his 13 years on the force, he added that it was the largest fire he’s seen in Wainscott. After an estimated 40 fire fighters arrived on the scene, he added, and they “knocked it down in about 15 minutes.”
According to Horsburgh, the fire was called in to emergency services by Bauer’s stepson, who had been living with the 78-year-old man and allegedly returned home from work to see the amber flames. Only after the Bridgehampton Fire Department extinguished the blaze did they discover the then unidentified man in the residence, who was declared dead at the scene.
His identity was officially reported on Monday, February 13.
Although there were others on-site at the time of the fire, Horburgh said no one else had been in the building at the time of the blaze.
East Hampton Town Police Detectives are working with the Suffolk County Police Homicide and Arson Squads to determine the exact cause of death and the origins of the fire. However, East Hampton Police referred all calls to the Suffolk County Homicide Department, which — as of press time — had not responded to calls.
Cozy Cottages is run by Hamptons Escape Management, Inc., which runs “private luxury recreational vacation properties” in East Quogue, Southampton, Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor and East Hampton (Wainscott).
The Cozy Cottages management team issued a statement about the incident on Monday, February 13.
“We at Cozy Cabins are deeply saddened by the incident that occurred last Friday night. We sincerely thank the East Hampton Town Police Department and the first responders of the Bridgehampton Fire Department for their prompt response and courageous acts of containing the fire to one cabin and immediately gaining access to it to control the incident and safeguard all others,” it read.
In addition to extinguishing the flames coming from Cottage 11, Horsburgh explained that fire fighters doused neighboring structures with water to prevent the fire from potentially leaping into other areas.
The statement issued by Cozy Cottages continued, “We hope that this will cause people to refrain from smoking in bed, as it can lead to the greatest loss.”
According to Suffolk County Police, the investigation is continuing.