A combination of foresight and execution made all the difference as the Amagansett Fire Department, aided by trucks and men from Montauk and East Hampton, put out a blazing fire at the Sea Crest motel complex on Napeague, just minutes before the high winds of the Nov. 7 northeaster hit the East End. Four units were damaged.
“We pre-planned that exact building,” Amagansett Fire Chief P.J. Cantwell said yesterday.
According to the chief, when mapping out potential danger spots for the department this past spring, Sea Crest became a primary focus, due to the long distance between the firehouse and the complex. The firefighters were familiar enough with the location to move right into action.
The department received the first call about the fire at about 7:15 a.m. Two members of the company, Jack Emptage and Britton Bistrian, live across from the complex, and were alerted to the fire by their 2-year-old daughter, who was looking out the window. “Mommy! Daddy! Fire!” the child yelled.
“It was going good,” the chief said, “but we had a good heads-up.” The first trucks that got there pulled the lines, made a quick attack, and did a good job in knocking down the flames, he said.
The men were well aware of the oncoming storm, with high winds. “I’m very happy with the men,” said the chief. “We could have lost the whole building. Within 20 minutes of our getting on scene the winds picked up to 20 to 30 miles per hour.”
In the end, up to 11 pieces of equipment were brought in. “Amagansett had two engines, a pumper truck, a tanker, a rescue truck, and two fire police units on the scene, the chief said, adding that the Montauk department supplied an engine, a ladder truck, and a pumper, and East Hampton a ladder truck and a pumper.
The ladder trucks were brought in from the other districts in anticipation of fire suppression from above. “As it turned out, the ladder trucks were not needed,” the chief said, thanks to the rapid response of the initial firefighters. The East Hampton truck was used for an overall wet-down.
After dousing flames upstairs, firefighters needed to get to the source of the fire in the basement. “We had a lot of cutting to do” to get there, the chief said.
According to Thomas Baker, a town fire marshal, who was at the scene with David Browne, the town’s chief fire marshal, the source of the fire appeared to be electrical in nature, starting in the basement.
One Montauk firefighter experienced chest pains and was taken to Southampton Hospital, then transferred to Stony Brook Medical Center for treatment.