Hampton Bays Mobile Home Fire Leaves Dog Dead


A fire damaged a mobile home in Hampton Bays late Sunday night when the owner was away, though two of his four-legged companions were not as fortunate.

Jay Baucum, the safety and public information officer for the Hampton Bays Fire Department, said Monday that firefighters responded to the blaze in the Hampton Bays Community mobile home park off Cedar Street, across from the Wild By Nature shopping plaza, at around 11:30 p.m. Sunday. They had the blaze under control within 30 minutes, he added.

No injuries were reported as the homeowner, who neighbors identified as Michael Wowak, was not home when the fire started. His dog and cat, however, died in the fire, according to fire officials.

Mr. Baucum said firefighters carried the dog from the home and tried to revive her once outside, but were unsuccessful. Though he did not know the exact cause of the dog’s death, he said the dog could have inhaled smoke.

Neighbors said the dog was a border collie named “Missy.”

“We are very thankful he survived and sad that his dog did not,” Laura Balducci, a neighbor, said in an email. “He loved his dog very much and we saw him walk her daily.”

Southampton Town Fire Marshal John Rankin, who is investigating the blaze, said Tuesday afternoon that a cause has not yet been determined. He did note, however, that the fire does not appear to be suspicious.

Mr. Rankin also said Mr. Wowak arrived home shortly after the fire started, but was unable to enter his home due to heavy smoke.

The interior of the mobile home sustained heavy damage, fire officials said. George Buckingham, the regional manager for Garden Homes Management Corp., which manages the mobile home park, said a neighbor reported the fire to emergency responders.

Just shy of two years ago, a fire gutted another home in the same park and damaged two adjacent homes. No one was injured in that blaze.

“It’s just a shame,” Mr. Buckingham said on Tuesday. “They go up real fast—there’s not much you can do.”

He said Mr. Wowak, who could not be reached for comment, was now staying with friends as his home is unlivable.

Rhonnie Winokur, the resident manager of the park, said neighbors gathered in the middle of the night on Sunday to check on Mr. Wowak.

“He’s devastated, of course,” she said. “The dog was his best friend. That’s an old cliché, but it’s the truth. She was everything to him.”

She noted that Mr. Wowak had lived in the park since she moved there about seven years ago, and explained that neighbors are “compassionate” and look out for one another. “People really care here and they were all very, very concerned for Mike,” she said.

Ms. Winokur also commended Hampton Bays firefighters for their swift action and kindness.

“You can replace a lot of paperwork, and you can replace the belongings in the home, but how do you replace a life like that?” she said, referring to Mr. Wowak’s dog. “We’ll take one step at a time.”

Fire officials shut down a portion of Montauk Highway while they fought the fire in order to safely reach the hydrant located on the north side of the road, opposite the mobile home park.

A Hampton Bays Volunteer Ambulance and the East Quogue Fire Department also responded to the alarm. The Southampton Volunteer Fire Department assisted by covering the Hampton Bays firehouse while the firefighters battled the blaze.

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