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Investigators probe cause of fire in Cupsogue County Park

Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton on Sunday,

Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, the morning after a fire engulfed the park pavilion. Credit: Matthew Adams

Investigators worked Sunday to determine the cause of a Saturday night blaze that destroyed the popular Cupsogue Beach County Park pavilion in West Hampton Dunes, according to dispatchers from several fire departments.

Members of the Suffolk County Police arson squad surveyed the damage that consumed the pavilion -- including the concession stand -- leaving only portions of the walls standing. Boardwalks leading to the parking area and to the beach were not damaged.

The fire was reported to police about 8 p.m. Saturday, officials said, and burned into the night.

West Hampton Dunes residents Sunday lamented the loss of the popular facility at the west end of Dune Road on the barrier island.

"It's sad," said Eric Saretsky, 52, who was walking along the road with his brother and father. "You can only hope the county will rebuild it nicely to the way it was and not turn it into something different."

Justin Meyers, a Suffolk County spokesman, said County Executive Steve Bellone and other officials will tour the site Monday and Tuesday to "assess the damage."

"We will absolutely be rebuilding the facility," Meyers said. "The entire pavilion is destroyed.

Eric Friedmann, 47, also walked along Dune Road Sunday and said his family watched the blaze from their home Saturday night. At first they feared a home had caught fire by the bay side, he said. They had just visited the concession stand on Saturday.

"I'm glad it wasn't anyone's home and nobody was hurt," he said.

Meyers said 20 fire departments and 250 firefighters responded to the blaze, which was under control by 1 a.m. Sunday. Fire departments responding to the blaze included Westhampton Beach, Hampton Bays, Eastport and Riverhead.

Saretsky said the pavilion was a frequent destination for the family during their 4-mile weekly walks. They would often stop for water, a restroom break or to empty sand from their shoes.

"It shortened our walk," he said.

The park was closed to visitors Sunday and the entrance blocked by a Suffolk County parks department vehicle while investigators studied the scene.

The pavilion included bathrooms, showers and a first-aid station in addition to the concession stand and seating. Musical performances were regularly held at the pavilion. The 300-acre park also allowed camping.

West Hampton Dunes incorporated in 1993 and consists of about 50 year-round residents and 300 large houses, many summer or weekend homes. An audit by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office recently criticized village officials for failing to follow basic accounting practices.

Those failures led to a budget deficit of nearly $150,000 for a $1.5 million budget in 2013. Mayor Gary Vegliante, who has been in office since incorporation, said the village had corrected its mistakes and hired a new accounting firm last year.

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