Propane tank helped further fuel blaze inside garage

‘Intense Conditions’ At East Hampton House Fire




A heavy column of smoke could be seen a mile away coming from a house on Roberts Lane in East Hampton. Independent/Michael Heller

East Hampton firefighters stopped a rapidly moving fire that started in the garage of a house at 11 Roberts Lane from spreading to the rest of the residence, despite intense conditions, Sunday evening.

The East Hampton Fire Department received a report of fire at 6:35 PM. A heavy column of smoke could be seen from at least a mile away by responding officers, Chief Gerard Turza Jr. said. Upon arrival, they found a heavy fire condition in the attached two-car garage on an approximately 6500 square foot house. The blaze was rapidly spreading into the rest of residence and extending to the second floor above the garage.

All of the occupants were out of the house already. “Firefighters made an extremely aggressive attack” both inside and outside the house.

The blaze was being further fueled by what was inside the garage; a 20-pound propane BBQ tank off-gassed, plus there was a smaller gas can stored there, and the fuel tank in a vehicle in the garage.

The extra fuel load made for “some pretty intense conditions,” according to the chief. Explosion sounds could be heard and fuel from the burning vehicle was running out of the garage on fire. “Flames were really blowing out of the house. They were coming out of the windows” at one point, Turza said.

The fire destroyed the inside of the garage and a vehicle that had been parked there. Independent/Michael Heller

However, the chief said the fire could have been worse. “The door from the garage to the kitchen was closed and fire was starting to come through that,” when the first firefighters went inside. “Had that door not been closed the fire would have easily spread to the interior of the residence,” he said, driving home the importance of closing doors to prevent fires from spreading quickly. “It worked in our favor.”

Also, a firefighter was able to remove a second vehicle that had been parked partially in the garage, preventing further complications.

It took roughly 20 minutes to bring the main body of fire under control, and the fire was completely extinguished within 45 minutes. Firefighters remained on scene for approximately two more hours for an extensive overhaul, looking for pockets of hidden fire.

The combination interior-exterior attack allowed firefighters to contain the fire to the garage portion. The garage sustained substantial damage, but there was minor to moderate smoke damage in the rest of the house and minor water damage to the first and second floors, according to the chief.

In all, about 85 firefighters responded with three engines, a hose truck, the tower ladder, two tankers, and two fire police vehicles. The East Hampton Village Ambulance Association also responded. No injuries were reported.

The Sag Harbor Fire Department responded with its Rapid Intervention Team, called in case interior firefighters need to be rescued. Also, Springs Fire Department engine stood by at East Hampton’s headquarters during the fire and Springs firefighters answered two automatic fire alarms while they were there.

The East Hampton Town fire marshal’s office is investigating the origin and cause of the fire. “At this time, it does not appear to be suspicious in nature,” the chief said.