A Westhampton Beach firefighter rescued two men from a burning Lincoln Street home on Tuesday night, while a third man also living at the residence suffered cuts after breaking a window with a dresser drawer to escape from the flames, according to fire officials.
Two of the men living in the single-story home—authorities think that at least six people were staying there when the fire broke out just before 10 p.m.—had to be treated for smoke inhalation and lacerations, according to Southampton Town Police Detective Tim Wilson.
Both men were transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead by the Westhampton War Memorial Ambulance. Both were released from the hospital at 3 a.m. Wednesday, Det. Wilson said.
Southampton Town Fire Marshal John Rankin said investigators are still trying to pinpoint the cause of the fire but have ruled out any criminality. He said he was on scene until about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, and noted that the investigation is ongoing.
Westhampton Beach 3rd Assistant Chief Billy Dalton said he arrived at the home just a minute or two after a neighbor reported the fire at approximately 9:50 p.m. and determined, with the help of fellow firefighter Sal Rosato, that people were still inside the burning building.
Mr. Dalton put on his gear, including an air tank, and pushed the front door open, only to find a man struggling directly behind it. The man was then able to exit on his own, and Mr. Dalton entered the home to find another man who was cut up. He dragged the victim, who he suspected had inhaled smoke, out of the home and carried him about 400 feet across the lawn to the street, where a waiting ambulance could treat him.
“Billy did a great job,” Westhampton Beach Fire Department Chief John “Chip” Bancroft said. “I give him a lot of credit.”
Chief Bancroft said firefighters conducted three full searches of the home, which is located on a flag lot, to determine if any other residents remained inside, but did not find any other victims. He said the residents did not speak English, which made it more difficult to determine if anyone was missing. Det. Wilson said more than six people were inside the building at the time, though neither he nor Mr. Rankin had an exact count.
No firefighters were injured while battling the blaze, which was extinguished within minutes, though volunteers spent the new few hours on the scene making sure it did not rekindle.
Mr. Rankin added that he had not yet determined whether those inside the home were relatives of the homeowner, listed in town records as Miguel Garzon, or if they rent it from him. Mr. Rankin also explained that investigators were working to determine if the home had properly functioning smoke detectors. No summonses had been issued as of Wednesday morning.
Chief Bancroft said a third person in the home suffered cuts to his arm after breaking a window to escape the flames. But Det. Wilson said he thinks the person suffered the injury after breaking a window while trying to use a garden hose to put out the fire. Officials said the language barrier made it difficult to determine what had transpired in the first few minutes.
Chief Bancroft said he and Mr. Dalton were returning from an automatic alarm on Tanners Neck Lane in Westhampton, which is why they were able to arrive on scene so quickly. He said there were flames coming out from the front and sides of the house when they arrived. Chief Bancroft said he then began circling the building so he could coordinate their attack, which began just four minutes after the call came in.
Just a few hours earlier the department members conducting a training drill at a vacant home flagged for demolition off Tanners Neck Lane, and many of them were still at the firehouse unpacking when the alarm came in, aiding the quick response time.
Volunteers with the Eastport and Quogue fire departments also responded to the scene, with the latter providing a rapid intervention team whose members are charged with rescuing injured firefighters. The Francis S. Gabreski Airport Fire Department also responded, along with the East Quogue Fire Department ambulance and the Flanders-Northampton Volunteer Ambulance.
“It went down like clockwork,” Mr. Dalton said of the response of firefighters.