A Setauket house fire left a woman dead and her baby, and the baby's father, injured. A Good Samaritan helped rescue the 10-month old boy. Newsday's Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez and Stringer News Service

A fast-moving midnight fire fed by whipping winds tore through an East Setauket home Friday morning, killing a mother and badly burning the father of their 10-month-old son when he made a desperate rescue attempt, officials said.

From a roof ledge about 12 feet high, the man handed the baby to a Good Samaritan outside the home on Old Town Road. He then tried to get back inside but was stopped by what Setauket fire district manager David Sterne said was "a wall of flame."

Lisa Ostrowski, 31, was found dead inside the house after the 12:01 a.m. fire was extinguished. Police identified the man as Stephen Ortner, 30, and their son as Leo. Father and son were taken to Stony Brook University Hospital, where Ortner was treated for smoke inhalation, burns and other injuries, and Leo for "slight" injuries, Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said in an interview.

Setauket firefighters were alerted to a fully engulfed house fire...

Setauket firefighters were alerted to a fully engulfed house fire at 360 Old Town Rd in Setauket around midnight Friday. Credit: Christopher Sabella

Sterne said department Chief Richard Leute arrived on the scene minutes after a 911 call was placed to find the house engulfed by flames. Ortner had passed the baby to safety but was on the ledge preparing to climb back into the second-floor bedroom he’d just escaped.

"You’re going to get killed!" the veteran firefighter screamed. "Get back!"

Ortner jumped, Sterne said. Leute caught him.

It took about an hour to put down the fire, Sterne said, with winds the National Weather Service clocked at 53 mph in the area acting "like a bellows in a fireplace" on the wood-frame house.

Ostrowski was found in a room adjacent to the bedroom, Sterne said.

Friday afternoon, authorities were still investigating the cause of the fire and of Ostrowski’s death. Firefighters had a rough understanding of what happened in the seconds before they arrived, though: Ortner "grabbed the baby and ran through the flames to get to the window to get him and the baby out," Sterne said. "That is not an easy thing for anyone to do."

When Ostrowski apparently "couldn’t get through the same flames," Ortner "tried heroically to go back," Sterne said.

Harrison, who singled out the unnamed Good Samaritan for his own heroism, said Friday morning that while the fire appeared to be noncriminal, both Homicide Squad and Arson Section detectives were investigating, following department protocol.

A neighbor, Karina Schwarz, 20, said in an interview Friday she’d called 911 after seeing the home’s front porch ablaze. The fire seemed to grow minute by minute, she said, with a downed power line sparking in the driveway and a nearby tree also in flames.

"I remember seeing the porch falling apart," Schwarz said, and fire turned the house into "a giant orange ball."

Her mother, Lorna Schwarz, saw what remained. "It’s awful," she said. "It’s awful."

Another neighbor, Anupan Mahadeo, described the scene early Friday morning as "apocalyptic." The aftermath — a woman dead, a family bereft — "breaks my heart," he said.

With Cecilia Dowd and John Valenti

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