Following up on the fire at Shoreham's Tesla Science Center. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Anthony Florio, Tom Lambui; File Footage; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A fire that caused widespread damage Tuesday night to the historic Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe began smoldering again Wednesday morning, leaving an even larger path of destruction at famed scientist Nikola Tesla's final laboratory in Shoreham, according to the facility's executive director.

On Tuesday evening, more than 100 firefighters from 11 departments responded to a blaze in the northeastern portion of the lab.

The building was unoccupied at the time of the fire, although one firefighter suffered minor injuries after falling off a ladder, said Marc Alessi, executive director of the nonprofit. The firefighter, officials said, was treated and released.

A private security firm hired by the science center noticed smoke emerging from the building at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and then again around 5:30 a.m., prompting firefighters to return, Alessi said.

By early afternoon, the fires were believed to be permanently out and a team of architects and engineers was assessing the damage, he said.

"A lot of people were worried last night that we were going to lose the entire lab," Alessi said. "But the lab is still standing. Obviously there's significant damage, but we're hopeful that we're going to be able to proceed."

The building had been undergoing renovations.

"It's going to be a little more complicated in restoring the lab," Alessi said. "Our mission has always been to open the lab to the public as a global museum and science center. It's just a little bit more difficult now but it will still happen."

Suffolk County Arson Squad detectives are investigating the fire, which appears to have started somewhere near the rear of the 10,000-square-foot building. 

Brookhaven fire marshals and arson investigators finished their on-scene investigation Wednesday and are reviewing video footage before determining a cause of the blaze in the next few days.

Brookhaven Chief Fire Marshal Christopher Mehrman said the official cause of the blaze is still under investigation and fire marshals have not designated whether the fire was accidental or suspicious.

He said a neighboring building was being demolished while the original lab was being preserved. Another building on the property did not sustain fire damage but was already undergoing demolition.

"There was a lot of work going on there. The original lab sustained significant damage," Mehrman said. "It's not a total loss or destroyed, but it's going to take a lot of work and the lab building can be saved."

Fire investigators flew drones over the site Wednesday and conducted additional interviews with people who worked at the building, Mehrman said.

While the bones of the building, built in 1901 by famed architect Stanford White, appear intact, Alessi said the damage is extensive and some of the historic features may be lost. He said the building featured historic molding and wood infrastructure inside that dated back to Nikola Tesla. 

"There's some steel beam trusses that held the roof up, and we're assessing if they're all gonna have to be replaced,"   he said. "When you're doing a restoration project like this, you try to hold on to as much of the past as possible and restore what needs to be restored. But a whole lot more now is going to have to be done than was originally contemplated."

On Wednesday, Vladimir Bozovic, consul general for the Republic of Serbia, pledged to provide "any necessary assistance" to the science center as it attempts to rebuild. Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor.

"The Republic of Serbia will be committed to responding in a manner befitting the gravity of the situation," Bozovic, who plans to visit the facility in the coming days, said in a statement. " … We anticipate that this event will serve as a unifying force, bringing together individuals from all walks of life, to celebrate the enduring legacy and achievements of Nikola Tesla for years and decades to come."

The Tesla Science Center is undergoing a $20 million restoration of the 16-acre property, though efforts to acquire and revitalize it date back more than 20 years. About 20 satellite buildings at the site were to be demolished as part of construction, and the former lab's interior restored to resemble its appearance during Tesla's time there, designers told Newsday in April.

The lab was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.

With John Asbury, Grant Parpan and John Valenti

A fire that caused widespread damage Tuesday night to the historic Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe began smoldering again Wednesday morning, leaving an even larger path of destruction at famed scientist Nikola Tesla's final laboratory in Shoreham, according to the facility's executive director.

On Tuesday evening, more than 100 firefighters from 11 departments responded to a blaze in the northeastern portion of the lab.

The building was unoccupied at the time of the fire, although one firefighter suffered minor injuries after falling off a ladder, said Marc Alessi, executive director of the nonprofit. The firefighter, officials said, was treated and released.

A private security firm hired by the science center noticed smoke emerging from the building at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and then again around 5:30 a.m., prompting firefighters to return, Alessi said.

Firefighters returned to the scene early Wednesday morning to extinguish...

Firefighters returned to the scene early Wednesday morning to extinguish some hot spots that flared up after last night's blaze that heavily damaged the Tesla lab.  Credit: Tom Lambui

By early afternoon, the fires were believed to be permanently out and a team of architects and engineers was assessing the damage, he said.

"A lot of people were worried last night that we were going to lose the entire lab," Alessi said. "But the lab is still standing. Obviously there's significant damage, but we're hopeful that we're going to be able to proceed."

The building had been undergoing renovations.

"It's going to be a little more complicated in restoring the lab," Alessi said. "Our mission has always been to open the lab to the public as a global museum and science center. It's just a little bit more difficult now but it will still happen."

Suffolk County Arson Squad detectives are investigating the fire, which appears to have started somewhere near the rear of the 10,000-square-foot building. 

Brookhaven fire marshals and arson investigators finished their on-scene investigation Wednesday and are reviewing video footage before determining a cause of the blaze in the next few days.

Brookhaven Chief Fire Marshal Christopher Mehrman said the official cause of the blaze is still under investigation and fire marshals have not designated whether the fire was accidental or suspicious.

He said a neighboring building was being demolished while the original lab was being preserved. Another building on the property did not sustain fire damage but was already undergoing demolition.

"There was a lot of work going on there. The original lab sustained significant damage," Mehrman said. "It's not a total loss or destroyed, but it's going to take a lot of work and the lab building can be saved."

Fire investigators flew drones over the site Wednesday and conducted additional interviews with people who worked at the building, Mehrman said.

While the bones of the building, built in 1901 by famed architect Stanford White, appear intact, Alessi said the damage is extensive and some of the historic features may be lost. He said the building featured historic molding and wood infrastructure inside that dated back to Nikola Tesla. 

"There's some steel beam trusses that held the roof up, and we're assessing if they're all gonna have to be replaced,"   he said. "When you're doing a restoration project like this, you try to hold on to as much of the past as possible and restore what needs to be restored. But a whole lot more now is going to have to be done than was originally contemplated."

On Wednesday, Vladimir Bozovic, consul general for the Republic of Serbia, pledged to provide "any necessary assistance" to the science center as it attempts to rebuild. Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor.

"The Republic of Serbia will be committed to responding in a manner befitting the gravity of the situation," Bozovic, who plans to visit the facility in the coming days, said in a statement. " … We anticipate that this event will serve as a unifying force, bringing together individuals from all walks of life, to celebrate the enduring legacy and achievements of Nikola Tesla for years and decades to come."

The Tesla Science Center is undergoing a $20 million restoration of the 16-acre property, though efforts to acquire and revitalize it date back more than 20 years. About 20 satellite buildings at the site were to be demolished as part of construction, and the former lab's interior restored to resemble its appearance during Tesla's time there, designers told Newsday in April.

The lab was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.

With John Asbury, Grant Parpan and John Valenti

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