Tag Archive | "georgica"

Fire Destroys East Hampton House of Hard Rock Cafe Co-Founder

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Heller_EHFD Structure Fire 57 West End Road 3-18-15_7940_7x

Firefighters spent almost eight hours extinguishing a fire that destroyed the house at 57 West End Road. Photography by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

Seven fire departments spent most of the afternoon and evening of March 18  battling a fire that destroyed the East Hampton house of Hard Rock Café co-founder Peter Morton.

Strong winds fueled the fire, which otherwise “could have been manageable,” according to East Hampton Fire Department Chief Richard Osterberg. The oceanfront house at 57 West End Road caught fire apparently when construction workers used a torch on the roof. Pockets of fire continued to burn late that night. There were no injuries.

“The house is a total loss,” Chief Osterberg said over the phone on Friday. According to the chief, the 911 call came in at approximately 2:35 p.m.; nearly 100 firefighters responded to the call and the last tanker did not leave the scene until 10:30 p.m., almost eight hours later, he said.

Chief Osterberg said that the fire appeared to be accidental and that there was no reason to believe it was suspicious.

“The wind really didn’t do us any favors,” the chief said, noting that the house has wide open fields on one side and Georgica Pond on the other.

By the time the first firefighters were on the scene, it had become apparent that it would be too dangerous to allow firefighters into the building and instead they decided to attack the flames from the exterior, dousing the burning house with huge quantities of water.

Winter winds were blowing hot embers around and firefighters worried that the flames would spread. “The house to the east was our main concern,” the chief said. West End Road is long and narrow, Chief  Osterberg explained, making it difficult for firefighters to get water from their tankers to the pumpers.

Not long after the call came through, other nearby departments were called in to provide mutual aid, the chief said. The Amagansett Fire Department sent a tanker as well as an engine and helped to lay hose, Mr. Osterberg said.

Springs, Montauk, Sag Harbor,  and Southampton fire departments all responded to requests for mutual aid and provided more manpower and firefighting equipment.hellerfire

Members of the North Sea Fire Department were sent in to serve as standby at the Emergency Services Building on Cedar Street in case another emergency call came in.

At approximately 5 p.m., the North Sea firefighters responded to an alarm at East Hampton Airport, when a plane skidded off the runway. With North Sea responding to that call, volunteers from Hampton Bays were brought in to stand by at the East Hampton headquartes on Cedar Street.

According to East Hampton Town Police, David Bulgin, 62, of Sag Harbor was the pilot and the sole occupant of the Beechcraft Baron BE 58 that skidded off the runway after experiencing a landing gear malfunction after landing on the main runway.

The plane was damaged and had to be removed from the runway. Mr. Bulgin walked away from the scene unscathed. The Federal Aviation Administration will conduct a full investigation on the incident, according to a release issued by the East Hampton Town Police.

“Out here we’re so lucky—everyone works so well together,” Chief Osterberg said. In addition to all the help from various fire departments, Amagansett and East Hampton Village sent ambulances to the fire near Georgica and the village police were “a tremendous help.”

By the mid-evening, an excavation crew from Keith Grimes, Inc. was working on removing debris from the property, and by the next morning, thanks to village police keeping an eye on the house, there was nothing left burning on the land.

“I feel I have a good department, to know you have friends that are willing to do whatever” is great, Chief Osterberg added.

Appeal in Erosion Complaint

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An appeal has been filed for a Sagaponack erosion case by attorney Gary Ireland who is arguing that groins put in place in East Hampton are the cause of erosion of beaches to the west and is asking the county take responsibility for damage from erosion and removal of the groins.

Ireland, who is representing his mother Cynthia Ireland, filed the appeal in late September because he believes the implementation of groins in the Georgica area of East Hampton have caused his mother to move her house back twice due to beach erosion. The county also filed its own cross-appeal to the decision earlier this month.

The original decision was made on August 27 issued by U.S. Eastern District Court Judge Brian M. Cogan. His decision said that the county would not be responsible to pay for damage incurred by the Sagaponack homeowners or the removal of the groins. Further, this decision would not require the county to replenish beaches due to erosion said to be caused by the Georgica groins.

Ireland said that there is substantial evidence in his favor and that is why he filed an appeal.

“We have support from various environmental organizations to support our claim,” said Ireland. “We respectfully disagree with the judge.”

Ireland said the court ruling was based on the fact that erosion is a natural occurrence. But Ireland along with some experts, believe the groins have sped up this process. Bob DeLuca, President of Group for the East End, testified during the trial and said that he has been involved in coastal planning on the East End for 16 to 18 years and has seen a lot of erosion in the area west of the groins.

“The area to the east of the groins is stable, and that was the point of putting them there by the Army Corp of Engineers in the 1960s,” he said on Tuesday. 

Kevin McAllister of the Peconic Baykeeper, also argues that the groins have caused the erosion to happen at a faster rate. He said that the currents and winds move the sand from east to west and the jetties interfere with that movement.

During the trial, which was held last April, geologist and engineer, Dr. David Aubrey said that he believes the sand flows in both directions.

On Tuesday, Sagaponack Mayor Donald Louchheim said, “I think there is ample evidence that the Georgica groins have contributed to beach erosion in neighboring Sagaponack. I would like to see appeal and the groins removed.”