A fire in the main residence of the property on Georgica Pond known as The Creeks caused extensive damage to the structure in the overnight hours between Friday and Saturday, September 27 and 28. The owners of the property, Ronald O. Perelman, the billionaire philanthropist who is also the owner of The Independent, and his wife, Anna Chapman, as well as members of their family, were not home at the time. The blaze, which broke through the roof of the residence, gutting the attic and causing extensive smoke, fire, and water damage to the second floor, required several fire departments from the South Fork to assist the East Hampton Fire Department in extinguishing it.
Ken Cullum, fire marshal for East Hampton Village, said on Monday that, while the investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing, there was no indication of foul play being involved in its ignition. The fire, he said, started in the attic, with the cause still to be determined.
East Hampton Fire Chief Gerald Turza Jr. was away for the weekend, but was briefed by his assistant chiefs when he returned to East Hampton on Monday. According to Chief Turza, “Second Assistant Chief Brian Stanis was first on the scene.” When Chief Stanis arrived, the fire had already pierced through the roof, and was licking up toward the sky. The full complement of the department’s equipment and men were brought to bear on the blaze. That included three fire engines, a hose truck, a tanker, a tower ladder truck, multiple fire police, and a heavy rescue unit.
As the first assistant to arrive on the scene, Chief Stanis took command of the operation. The fact that the firefighters were inside the building, fighting the intense heat and smoke and flames, caused him to call in the Sag Harbor, Montauk, and Southampton rapid intervention teams, firefighters trained to get their comrades out of harm’s way if things should take a turn for the worse.
Getting enough hoses in place to deliver water to the fire on the sprawling property was also an issue Chief Stanis tackled, with additional hose trucks being called in, along with additional manpower. Ultimately, Southampton, Springs, Montauk, and Sag Harbor provided additional boots on the ground, along with EMS units from East Hampton Village Volunteer Ambulance, Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and the Montauk Fire Department Volunteer Ambulance Company.
Three times the firefighters were called out of the building for fear that it was about to collapse. At those times, the main focus became delivering water from the tower ladder. A new piece of equipment, Chief Turza said, played a pivotal role at those moments: a FLIR system aerial thermal imaging system, that pinpoints the hot pockets in a fire, allowing the firefighters to direct water at the areas. The department obtained the FLIR system less than a month ago, the chief said.
Each time the firefighters were pulled out, an assessment of the situation was done, and they were sent back in. “I was very proud of the assistant chiefs, the firefighters, the fire police, and the mutual aid workers,” Chief Turza said.
Protecting lives is not the only thing firefighters do. “Life, safety, and property preservation” has always been a cornerstone of American fire departments, the chief said. As they fought the fire, firemen removed property to avoid further damage, as their credo calls for.
It took about three hours to suppress the fire. Firefighters did not leave The Creeks property until after 4 AM.
There were no injuries to firefighters, or to the staff members who were on the property when the fire broke out.
“On behalf of Ronald and Anna, we want to thank all the brave local fire fighters and police for their extraordinary response,” read a statement from the Perelman family.