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Fire Island homes destroyed by fire, Suffolk officials say

Four structures were destroyed and two were damanged by an overnight fire on Friday June 16, 2017, that swept through the Fire Island Pines neighborhood, according to Joseph Geiman, Fire Island Pines 1st assistant chief. Residents in the area recount the shocking night.  (Credit: Steve Pfost)

Four homes were destroyed and two others damaged when windblown flames roared through a section of Fire Island Pines early Friday, officials said.

George Wilson said he was sitting in the living room of his Cedar Walk home at about 1:30 a.m. when the windows began “turning orange.”

Wilson, 67, a summer resident from Manhattan, stepped outside and saw the house next door was on fire. He said he called 911 as a housemate checked to make sure no one was inside the burning home.

“Then we got out of the house and stood there and watched it all just . . . turn to ash,” he said.

Lost in the blaze, the Fire Island home was Wilson’s summer refuge since 1996.

“How I’m feeling today is grateful for the gift of 22 years, and hopeful that we can make it right,” he said.

Firefighters remained at the scene Friday afternoon, dousing the still-smoking wreckage to prevent flare-ups.

The fire on the barrier island was first reported at 12:57 a.m. in a home on Ocean Walk, Brookhaven Chief Fire Marshal Chris Mehrman said.

Fanned by winds up to 30 mph, Mehrman said the fire “rapidly spread” to a pair of Pine Walk homes and a home on Cedar Walk.

At least 15 fire departments responded. Some firefighters were ferried across the bay to battle the blaze, which took several hours to bring under control, officials said.

“It was an enormous ball of fire — an enormous orange glow,” Holtsville firefighter Bryan Lopez said of the view from the ferry.

The Town of Brookhaven fire marshal’s office and the Suffolk County Police Arson Squad were investigating the cause and origin of the fire, Mehrman said.

Two firefighters were treated at the scene for minor injuries, and another was taken to a hospital after reporting elevated blood pressure, officials said. No civilian injuries were reported.

Susan Greis Zimmermann, a Cedar Walk resident since 1958, said she and her sister hosed down their home and nearby trees to ward off the flames before firefighters told them to evacuate.

“We’re traumatized like everybody else is,” she said. “ . . . I’ve never seen a fire like this, ever.”

Jon Wilner, a 35-year resident of Fire Island Pines, said he heard the fire alarms from his home on Shady Walk and saw “flames like you can’t imagine.”

“Without our volunteer fire department, we would have lost 20” homes, said Wilner, a real estate broker.

“We’ve lived through a lot of fires here,” he said. “We’re a strong community. We’ve been through worse; we’ll get through this.”

Fire Island Pines — a square mile in size — has about 700 homes, linked by wooden walkways.

In 2011, a fire in the community destroyed a popular two-story entertainment and retail complex near the dock area.


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