Tag Archive | "bridgehampton fire department"

Blaze Destroys Historic Home in Sagaponack; Arson Suspected

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Photography by Michael Heller/East Hampton Fire Department

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By Stephen J. Kotz

A fire that swept through a vacant 17th century colonial house on Main Street in Sagaponack early Monday morning is being investigated as a possible case of arson.

Southampton Town Police, who are leading the investigation, did not return multiple calls seeking comment, but a firefighter who was at the scene and spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that an onlooker had found “some type of fabric” in the nearby Sagaponack burying ground that detectives later determined   had accelerant on it.

The onlooker, who also requested anonymity, said the fabric “looked like an old beach towel” and was accompanied by a shopping bag. “I thought to myself, ‘Did someone escape from that fire?’” the witness said.

The witness gave a statement to police but told The Express that there was nothing outwardly suspicious about the items. “I didn’t smell gasoline,” the person said. “I kicked the bag, but didn’t see a gas can or anything like that, but it was dark.”

According to an inventory of Sagaponack buildings completed for the Sagaponack Village Historic District in 2000, the house, at 850 Main Street, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The northern half of the house dates to approximately 1650. The southern half of the house was built by Jesse Pierson n 1842. His son, David, later lived in the house and it was eventually owned by James Henry Devereaux as a summer home. It was later converted into the “Hearthstone Inn” and remained an in inn until 1962 when it was purchased by the Robb family for a summer home. The property is now owned by part-time resident Peter Smith.

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According to Bridgehampton Fire Chief Gary Horsburgh, the initial call came in at 5:42 a.m. Second Assistant Chief Jeff White, who was the first member of the department on scene, found the south side of the house totally engulfed in flames, Chief Horsburgh said.

“We put out the call for mutual aid right away,” Chief Horsburgh said. “It was all exterior fighting. It was too hot to go inside.”

Chief Horsburgh said the East Hampton, Sag Harbor, and Southampton Fire Departments also responded to the scene, as did the Southampton Village Ambulance and Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps. North Sea firefighters provided backup at the Bridgehampton firehouse.

The chief said about 75 volunteers turned out to help put out the fire, which took about three hours to put out. Firefighters were called back to the scene around noon to extinguish embers that were in danger of reigniting.

Chief Horsburgh said no one was injured in the blaze.

Chris Hanson, a Southampton Town fire marshal, who was involved in the initial investigation said on Wednesday that the matter had been turned over to town police and declined to comment.

The Suffolk County Police Department’s arson squad, which also investigated the scene on Monday, also referred calls to town police.

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Firefighters Battle House Fire in Bridgehampton

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Fire Department believe the house fire on Bridge Hill Lane on Sunday morning may have been caused by lightning. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Mara Certic

Members of the Bridgehampton Fire Department and neighboring departments spent several hours battling a house fire on Bridge Lane in Bridgehampton early Sunday morning, according to Chief Gary Horsburgh.

The chief said the department responded from an automatic fire alarm at the house on 10 Bridge Hill Lane at 1:52 a.m. Responders smelled smoke when they arrived and immediately requested assistance, he said.

The fire began in the basement and burned through the first floor, causing serious damage to the kitchen and the western side of the house, Chief Horsburgh said on Sunday morning. He added that heat and humidity made firefighting particularly taxing and tiring, and fire departments from Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Springs, North Sea, Hampton Bays and Southampton Village were all called in for mutual aid.

According to Chief Horsburgh the house is “still standing” but the western side is “pretty much gone.” No one was in the house when the fire began, Chief Horsburgh said, and there were no injuries.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the Southampton Town Fire Marshal, but Chief Horsburgh said he thought it could have been caused by lightning, as thunderstorms swept through the area that night.

Southampton Town Fire Marshal Brian Williams said on Wednesday that the investigation is ongoing.


Firefighters Battle Blaze in Bridgehampton

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Hayground fire

Firefighters were called to the scene of a house fire on Hayground Road in Bridgehampton on Thursday afternoon.

The Bridgehampton Fire Department, backed up by volunteers from five other departments, battled a house fire at 285 Hayground Road in Bridgehampton on Thursday afternoon.

Although firefighters were able to bring the fire under control quickly, the house suffered serious damage.

Departments from Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Southampton, North Sea and Hampton Bays provided backup.

The fire was called in at 4:10 p.m., reportedly by the homeowner. No injuries were reported.  Firefighters were at the scene for about two hours.

A Southampton Town fire marshal was at the scene to try to determine the cause of the fire.




Fire Reported at Hayground School in Bridgehampton

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Photography by Michael Heller

Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor firefighters overhaul and check for hot spots at a fire that occurred on the exterior of a campus building at the Hayground School on Mitchell Lane at roughly 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday. The fire was extinguished and no injuries were reported.

District Can Buy Pulver

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By Andrew Rudansky

The referendum asking for a $3.9 million bond to purchase the Pulver Gas property on Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton passed in a 138-20 vote in what Bridgehampton’s Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Steven Halsey said was the next step in a long process.

Halsey called the passing of the referendum on Tuesday, October 18 was “a win-win-win. It’s a win for the people, it’s a win for the department, and it’s a win for the entire fire district.” The commissioners have argued that, as the demands on firefighting in the district change, the department needs space in which to expand.

With this hurdle crossed, the district must now finalize the purchase of the property by December 15.

The passed bond referendum will effectively increase the taxes of all residents of the Bridgehampton Fire District for the entire period of the 15 year bond.

The fire district affected by the new tax stretches from Watermill, containing Bridgehampton, Sagaponack as well as parts of Wainscott.

While the exact increase for each citizen won’t be determined until the rate of the bond is finalized, the fire department released estimates of the tax increase based on a bond rate between 3.5 and 3.75 percent. If a house is assessed at $600,000, the expected increase in annual property taxes is $15.31. If assessed at $1 million, the increase will be $25.69. If a house is assessed at $2 million, the owner could expect an increase of $51.38.

At an information session last Friday, Halsey made the case for why the department thought it was necessary to purchase the nearly half-acre property from the Pulver and Ensign families who are the current owners.

“[The Bridgehampton Fire Department] is currently on a very small piece of property,” said Halsey, “from the outside it might look expansive, but it is not.”

Halsey along with the other members of the Board of Fire Commissioners explained that the current facilities were inadequate for the increased demands put on the department.

In 2010 the Bridgehampton Fire Department received 1322 emergency-related calls. So far this year the department has already received 1100 such calls.

“The fire service has changed over the years, it is not the same animal that it was ten years ago, not even five years ago,” said Halsey, “We would be far more efficient and productive in handling these challenges with the new Pulver property.”

“Trust me, if we don’t buy it, somebody else will definitely snatch it up,” said Halsey at last week’s information session. He said that the real estate agent representing the Pulver Gas Company had several other commercial parties who were interested in making an offer.

The property has a 95-foot front property edge looking out onto Montauk Highway, contains a two story, 8,000 square foot main building and a 2,300 square foot garage.

A stipulation in the purchasing contract allows Pulver Gas Company to continue to occupy the property for the next two years as tenants of the Bridgehampton Fire Department. The company would pay an annual rent of $100,000 to stay in the building. This money would go directly to mitigating the cost to the taxpayers.

At the meeting, the Board of Fire Commissioners also proposed selling an unused 60-by-100 foot piece in Wainscott owned by the department to further offset the cost of the bond.

Halsey said he was unsure how the department will use the property once Pulver Gas leaves in 2013, mentioning numerous options including knocking the building down for parking, renovating the building to accommodate more meeting rooms, or even keeping the building as is and using it for offices.

“During that two year period the Board of Fire Commissioners will decide exactly what to do with the property,” said Halsey.

Mixed Reviews on Bridgehampton Fire District Purchase of Pulver Property

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Members of the Bridgehampton Fire Department and its board of fire commissioners were criticized on Monday night by some members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee. The committee expressed concern that the department was moving too quickly and without solid plans for the future in its quest to purchase a Main Street, Bridgehampton property adjacent to the department’s current headquarters on School Street.

In a press release issued last week, the Bridgehampton Fire District announced it has entered into a contract to purchase the Pulver Gas Property, owned by the Pulver and Ensign families, for $3.9 million. According to board of fire commissioners chairman Steve Halsey, purchasing the property will enable the department to explore plans for expansion in the future. Their current firehouse, he said, was far too small to accommodate the department, which covers a district that stretches from parts of Wainscott through Sagaponack and Bridgehampton and into Water Mill.

The eight-company fire department also includes the Bridgehampton Ambulance Company, which is responsible for emergency calls throughout the district. According to Halsey, their offices amount to a space about the size of a closet.

In order to move forward with the purchase, the department must receive approval from voters throughout the fire district via a referendum vote that will be held on Tuesday, October 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Bridgehampton Fire Department.

The district will also host an informational meeting, prior to the vote, on Friday, October 14 at 6 p.m.

At Monday night’s CAC meeting, Halsey, along with a group of fire commissioners and chiefs, explained that earlier this year district officials shelved plans to add on to the current building after the price tag came in at $8 million. At the same time, the fire district was made aware that the Pulver Gas property was in fact for sale.

“That it even became available is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Halsey.

After negotiating through the summer, the district entered into a formal contact with the property owners, said Halsey. He added the Pulver Gas Company will remain a tenant in the space for two years — paying $100,000 annually in rent, which the district will use to pay down the $3.9 million debt. During that time the department will assess if, when and how it will expand the department.

According to Halsey, the district must close on the sale by December 15.

The fire district’s current building, said Halsey, which was constructed in the early 1980s, cannot accommodate the office space the district needs, or its equipment. Halsey noted that fire engines and ambulances have grown in length and height in the last two decades, as has the level of care residents receive from the ambulance corps.

According to commissioner John Muse, the ambulance company responds to over 600 calls a year and is staffed wholly by volunteers, who are dwindling in numbers.

Muse said one of the problems, he believes, is the lack of space in the fire department which does not allow for a place for first responders and EMTs to gather and discuss a call after they are finished with their case.

“This is just one of the aspects,” he said. “I feel the Pulver Gas purchase is beneficial for the whole district, the whole community.”

Halsey added that before the department could renovate or raze the Pulver Gas building on that parcel, it would have to go back to the community for permission.

“If the economy takes a downturn and we enter a depression we will not do anything,” said Halsey, noting the department has been frugal in both its budgets and equipment spending. Its newest fire truck dates back to 2002, the next newest truck is an engine purchased in 1989.

“So we are not asking for an open checkbook,” said Halsey, adding the district may decide to keep the Pulver Gas building as is and simply utilize the existing office space.

He also said both appraisals the district had done on the parcel placed a market of $4 million to $4.2 million on the land.

From a tax perspective, Halsey noted Bridgehampton’s fire district has a taxable valuation of $13 billion — the largest in all of Southampton Town. According to figures Halsey presented at the meeting, a resident with a home valued at $1 million would have to pay an additional $21 to $27 annually to the fire district to allow for the purchase of the Pulver Gas property, depending on the interest rate and whether or not the district sought a 15 year or 20 bond.

Resident Leonard Davenport did not question the need of the fire department for the space, and said he understood the district was faced with a short window of time to purchase the property. But he added that he believed the district needed to publicize this possible purchase and its plans earlier than it did.

CAC vice chairman Steven Steinberg added he would like to see an assessment of what the needs of the fire department actually are. Steinberg said he believed holding the hearing just four days before a referendum vote precludes the community from being able to discuss the proposal before voting. He said the district should look at asking for a contract extension to allow the community more time to investigate the proposal before voting on it.

“You should have come to us with a plan on what you were going to do and what it will cost down the road,” added Steinberg, who also said he believes if the fire district handles this properly it will be approved for its funding.

Nick Hemby, a 14-year-member of the department and an EMT, questioned the CAC on the value they place their own lives — lives protected by the fire department and ambulance corps at little cost by members of the community who are volunteers.

Bridgehampton Historical Society vice president John Millard suggested the district come back to residents on October 14 with different scenarios for expansion and what they would cost.

“Everyone in this room supports the concept that the fire department should expand, if it needs to expand,” said CAC chairman Fred Cammann. “What we are saying is we don’t want you to lose the vote.”

CAC member Peter Wilson added the district should be able to come up with draft figures for different expansion scenarios before the October 14 meeting.

In a letter sent to members of the CAC and the press after the meeting, Davenport reaffirmed his support for the purchase of the Pulver Gas property.

“That they buried the proposed bond issue in a brief public notice and planned on only four days following a public hearing before a vote on a $3.9 million bond issue should not overshadow the need, the logic, or probably the reasonable cost of the acquisition,” he wrote.

Following the meeting, Halsey said the board of fire commissioners would meet on Wednesday night and consider the responses they heard from the CAC and if they can incorporate some of their ideas into their proposal before October 14.

Bridgehampton Accident Leaves Watermill Man in Critical Condition

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On Sunday, July 12, a head-on car accident occurred on Montauk Highway near Poxabogue Lane in Bridgehampton at around 8:30 am after Fred Slaughter, 43, of Hackensack, New Jersey fell asleep at the wheel. According to Southampton Town Police, while asleep Slaughter crossed over the eastbound lane and onto the shoulder of the road when he awoke and swerved sharply to his right, striking an eastbound vehicle head-on near the center of the road. Police say the car that was hit was driven by a 41-year-old male resident of Watermill, whose name is being withheld pending family notification. When police arrived at the scene they found the 41-year-old seriously injured and trapped in his car, while Slaughter suffered only minor injuries. The Bridgehampton Fire Department responded and extricated the 41-year-old from the car and transported him to a landing zone where he was transferred to Stony Brook University Hospital by way of a Suffolk County Police Medi-Vac helicopter. Slaughter was taken to Southampton Hospital for his injuries. It was later determined that Slaughter’s driving privileges had been suspended eight times for numerous traffic infractions dating back to March 2008. Slaughter faces charges of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the second degree, a misdemeanor, and failing to maintain his lane, a traffic infraction. Slaughter has already been treated and released from the hospital, but police say the 41-year-old is still in critical condition and suffering from life threatening injuries.