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Residents return to East Islip nursing home after fire spurs partial evacuation

Emergency personnel evacuate residents from the Momentum at

Emergency personnel evacuate residents from the Momentum at South Bay in East Islip after a fire. (Dec. 21, 2013) Credit: Daniel Goodrich

More than 100 residents have returned to an East Islip nursing home that was partially evacuated Saturday afternoon when torches being used on a roof repair caused heavy smoke and a small fire, authorities said.

Hani Kutteh, chief of the East Islip Fire Department, said authorities were called at 3:48 p.m. to Momentum at South Bay for Rehabilitation and Nursing at 340 East Main St.

"When we got to the scene, it was noted that there were rooftop repairs being done . . . by a roofing company. Apparently, an accident happened with some torches . . . There was . . . heavy smoke conditions."

Kutteh said some debris caught fire and was quickly extinguished.

He said about 150 fire and emergency medical personnel were on the scene, "to make sure that the residents of the Momentum were OK. There are a number of bedridden people here who are on oxygen, with various illnesses, so we had a lot of staff down here making sure that the residents were good."

No residents were injured, no rooms were damaged, and there was no water damage, Kutteh said.

One emergency medical worker suffered a back injury and was taken to a hospital.

Kutteh said the roof repair was being done on a part of the home toward the back, called the B-complex.

A Suffolk arson investigator at the scene said roofing workers used torches to heat and glue down the roofing material. The process produced smoke, which was pulled into a nearby elevator shaft.

Kutteh said 135 residents were evacuated into mobile units and tents. By 5:06 p.m., the fire was under control, put out with extinguishers; and hoses were not needed, he said.

Shortly before 6 p.m., an employee of the home who would not identify herself came out of the building and said, "No comment, we're trying to get all the residents settled."

A resident in a wheelchair who identified himself as Larry, 64, was smoking a cigarette outside at 6:30 p.m.

"People coming down the elevator said they smelled burning oil . . . They got everybody out, nobody got hurt," he said.

Asked if he was frightened, he pointed to his hat, which read "Vietnam Veteran."

"I've been through worse. I've been through a lot worse."

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