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Ice resurfacer sparks fire at Port Washington rink, authorities say

The Port Washington Skating Center ice rink was

The Port Washington Skating Center ice rink was damaged Thursday night when an ice resurfacing machine caught fire, authorities said. One firefighter was treated for minor injuries. Photo Credit: Kevin Madigan

A Port Washington ice rink burned Thursday night when an ice resurfacing machine caught on fire as children played hockey and their parents watched, authorities said.

The fire alarm at the Port Washington Skating Center failed to go off, but workers helped evacuate everyone safely, at least 20 people, said Michael Uttaro, Nassau County assistant chief fire marshal, who was at the scene.

Employees had been trying to start up the ice resurfacer, located in a corner of the ice rink, when a malfunction set the machine ablaze, fire officials said. The flames were then fueled by two 20-pound propane tanks on the machine, Uttaro said.

About 65 firefighters from seven departments, led by Port Washington, faced smoke that was banked down so much that they couldn’t see what was burning, officials said.

“You couldn’t see what was burning right away until we were able to put the fire out and smoke lifted and we realized it was just contained” to the ice resurfacing machine, said Port Washington Fire Chief Bryan Vogeley.

“Just due to the size of the building and the amount of smoke, we needed a lot of manpower just to get the hoses into the building and get to the roof and all the other stuff,” he said.

Hoses had to be snaked a long way in to fight the flames, and firefighters did careful “shuffling” on the ice, the chief said.

The blaze was brought under control just before 9:30 p.m., about an hour after it was reported, officials said. One Port Washington firefighter was treated for minor injuries at a hospital and released, authorities said.

Uttaro said the ice rink owner was issued violations, including for not having a working fire alarm system.

Vogeley said an automatic alarm from the ice rink should have alerted the firehouse, but someone calling from the rink was the first to alert the department.

Ice rink officials could not be reached Thursday night.

The fire damaged a room above where the ice resurfacing machine was, fire officials said, and the facility was expected to be closed for at least a week to make repairs and clear ceiling tiles and other debris from the ice rink.

Vogeley said the ice rink burned 12 years ago when an ice resurfacer caught fire and the propane tanks exploded. An instructor at the rink was key in getting people out, he said, so no one was injured.

Correction: Due to incorrect information from fire officials, a previous version of this story had the wrong brand name for the ice resurfacing machine.

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