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Saved by Smoke Alarm

Posted on 09 June 2011


By Claire Walla

In the early morning hours of Monday, June 6, a 58-year-old woman living in a house on Burkeshire Drive in Noyac was jarred awake by the acrimonious sound of constant, monotonous beeping. It came from her smoke detector.

Her house was on fire.

“It is believed that had the smoke detector not activated, the woman would have been overcome by the smoke and/or flames,” according to a press release issued by Southampton Town Police Sergeant Lewis Scott.

Sag Harbor Village Fire Chief Pete Garypie said the flames “would have taken quite a while to reach her,” as the room in which she was sleeping when the fire broke out was separated by a concrete wall from the room in which the fire is believed to have originated. Garypie added that if she had not been woken up by the noise of her smoke detector, the woman probably would have been overcome with smoke inhalation before the flames would have reached her bed.

The one-story, modular home — whose owner lives elsewhere — is situated against a gradient and laid-out so that the basement apartment (which the woman rented from the homeowner) and the garage rest adjacent to one another. The main living quarters are above with the left side of the house at ground level and the right side resting above the garage.

Southampton Town Police reportedly received a call regarding the incident from a neighbor also on Burkeshire Drive at approximately 2:24 a.m. and immediately dispatched Sag Harbor Fire Department. This was just moments before the woman herself dialed 911 on her cell phone. She had reportedly discovered the landline was dead by the time she attempted to make the call, according to Garypie.

Garypie said three trucks and about 76 volunteer firefighters from Sag Harbor arrived on the scene to extinguish the blaze, along with eight to 10 volunteers from the East Hampton Squad. There was also a crew standing by in Bridgehampton.

“We had difficulty getting to the backside of the house because the roof [of the living room] had collapsed,” Garypie explained. But, after taking precautionary measures, he said the crew had the blaze “pretty much contained in about 40 minutes.”

No civilians, pets or fire personnel were reported to have been injured. However, the house sustained significant damage and is uninhabitable, and two cars — one parked inside the garage and one just outside the garage door — were badly burned.

“We believe the fire originated in the garage,” Garypie explained, noting that the right side of the building was engulfed by flames when crews arrived. The fire was creeping over into the rest of the house.

“We’ve been lucky, it’s been pretty quiet,” Garypie said of recent fire-related activity in the Sag Harbor community. The last time the department saw a blaze of this magnitude was about three years ago, he estimated, adding of the one-story, modular building that “this is nothing we haven’t seen plenty of times before.”

Southampton Town Police are urging homeowners to make certain their homes are equipped with working smoke detectors. According to Sergeant Scott, one detector should be installed in each bedroom, one outside of each sleeping area, and at least one should be located on each level of every building. Police also recommend that detectors be tested once a month and batteries replaced twice a year.

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