Cause Of Eastport Barn Fire Still A Mystery

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Smoke filled the streets of Eastport last Thursday afternoon, July 18, as a fire ravaged a converted duck barn near River Avenue for about an hour while dozens of firefighters from the surrounding area attacked the flames in 90-degree heat.

Two firefighters were hurt battling the blaze, including one Eastport firefighter who was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead with minor back and hip injuries he suffered after accidentally stepping in a hole, according to Francis “Bud” Mazura, the department’s public information officer. The other firefighter, also an Eastport volunteer, suffered a cut to his arm and was treated at the scene, according to Eastport Fire Chief Ryan King.

The call came in at around 12:50 p.m. on Thursday, and when first responders arrived on the scene, smoke was billowing out from under all four sides of the metal roof, Mr. Mazura said.

The one-story wood structure, which was converted from a duck barn into a storage unit in 1989, is about 30-feet wide and 100-feet long. The flames were extinguished using a combination of water and foam, but because of the progression of the fire, parts of the building had to be accessed by chopping through the walls.

Southampton Fire Marshal Al Tyczkowski still has not determined a cause of the fire, which is still under investigation this week.

Chief King said that because of the heat from the flames and the fact that temperatures were in the mid-90s at the time of the alarm, his department had to call in additional mutual aid so that the firefighters on scene would not overextend themselves.

“The temperature was the great challenge,” Chief King said. “It limited the time guys could work—guys couldn’t work more than 10 or 15 minutes without having to switch out units.”

He said local fire departments work together during times of extreme hot weather because the gear that volunteers must wear and carry can cause them to overheat. As part of the planned response in hot weather, Suffolk County provided the departments with a medical emergency response vehicle, an air-conditioned trailer that allows volunteers to cool down, while the Suffolk County Fire Marshals shipped over a mobile, air-conditioned tent for the same purpose, according to Eastport Fire Department officials.

The converted barn is one of several structures on the 5.2-acre property listed as 20 Pleasant Valley Road and owned by David Tuttle, according to town records. Some flames spread to an adjacent shed, but the damage was minor, according to fire officials.

Mr. Tuttle, 65, who now lives in Pennsylvania, said he raised ducks on the property from 1977 until 1989, when he decided to move in search of more peace and quiet. When he got word that a fire broke out on the land that his family has owned for generations, Mr. Tuttle said he was shocked.

“You just sort of sit there in a trance and think, ‘Now what do I do?’” he said.

While he has not yet inspected the damage himself, Mr. Tuttle said that, based on what others have told him, he thinks he will have to bulldoze the barn because it sounds like it is damaged beyond repair.

The tenants using the barn for storage declined to comment on their losses when they returned to the property on Friday.

Seven other local fire departments also responded to the blaze, including East Moriches, East Quogue, Westhampton Beach, Riverhead, Quogue, Manorville and Center Moriches, while paramedic services were provided by the East Moriches Community Ambulance and the Westhampton War Memorial Ambulance. A total of 85 firefighters and medical personnel responded and remained on-site during the three-hour ordeal, which included soaking the inside of the building to prevent any residual flames after the fire was extinguished.

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