A significant and fast moving fire erupted damaging parts the Fire Island Pines commercial district as well as at least one private residence.
Late in the evening on Monday, November 14, 2011 20 fire departments were called to support the Fire Island Pines Fire Department. According to early reports the Fire destroyed numerous landmark buildings including the Pavilion, the town’s premier nightclub, LaFountaine’s, Sip N’ Twirl, and the Pines Bistro. Unconfirmed reports suggest the fire started around 9:00 pm at the Sip N’ Twirl before igniting gas tanks at La Fountaine which spread to the Pavilion. It is very likely heavy wind apparently played a role in the spread of this Fire. If these reports are valid this could be the worst Fire in the community since 1959.
The Fire Island News reported that Walter Boss of the Pines Fire Department confirmed late Monday night that the fire destroyed the Pavilion, La Fountaine and a bay-front home. Businesses north of the Pavilion along the harbor appear to have been unscathed, he told The News.
Unfortunately, Fire Island has seen its share of disasters from fires to flooding, hurricanes to nor’easters. Fire Island is a very sensitive environment and disaster can be elevated by the very things we love most about it, in particular the lack of roads and the beautiful isolation. As one local resident pointed out “When a fire breaks out on the island, it spreads quickly and access to it is limited”
With a very limited off season population, the pines Fire department was joined by other fire island firefighters from: Ocean Bay Park, Davis Park, Point O’ Woods, Cherry Grove, Ocean Beach, Fair Harbor, Saltaire, Kismet, as well as mainland departments including Bay Shore, East Islip, West Islip, Sayville, Bellport, Green River, to name just a few.
The news of this fire spread quickly through social media outlets. The Fire Island Facebook page that reaches over 12,000 people had 100’s interacting late into the evening and early hours Tuesday. Fire Island related tweets were also on the rise. Josh Ocean re-tweeted on the Fire Island Pines Cherry Grove page “Omg! RT @cherry_grove: A fast moving fire destroyed Pavilion and at least two other structures in the Fire Island Pines” DJ James Anthony tweeted @fireislandnews – “my thoughts and prayers are with the FIP community this evening” on the Fire Island News Twitter page, and Jess Freund tweeted: “Thoughts with the OBFD. Be safe! @fireisland” Fire Island twitter page.
However, nothing was as moving as what Andrew Kirtzman co-owner of FIP Ventures, which owns the Pavilion, Blue Whale, Canteen, Hotel Ciel, Deck, Rack Gym, Pines Supply Co. Sugar Shack Spa and whom is largely responsible for the Pines major redevelopment over the past few years posted on the Pines Facebook page. His message was so important I felt it best to attach it in its entity.
“This is is obviously a very difficult night for all of us, and I wanted to give everyone a status report from the scene of the fire. I am outside the Pavilion building, surrounded by over 100 firefighters from across Long Island. The fire is under control but is not completely out. Both the Pavilion and LaFountaine buildings are still standing, but they have been completely gutted by fire and water. Sip n’ Twirl, the Bistro and the stores below them are in ruin. Then roof over the Pavilion is gone, and the high tea deck has been destroyed. Small fires are still burning inside the Pavilion – the dance floor – and it’s too dangerous for firefighters to enter inside. The department has called for bulldozers to be brought here from across the bay, as it may be safer to destroy the Pavilion altogether rather than fight the remaining blazes. It is an unfathomable moment. The air in the harbor is still thick with smoke, but the fire has not spread anywhere else, thanks to the incredible work of the Pines Fire Department and the departments that raced to its aid. Firefighters will be here through the night to ensure that no flames re-ignite and create a new threat to the other properties. Canteen, Blue Whale, the hotel and Pantry are all fine. The Suffolk Country Fire Department believes the fire began outside the LaFountaine office, engulfed that building and then spread to the Pavilion. Officials tell me they don’t believe the fire to be suspicious. Seth, Matt and I want to thank you all for your notes and phone calls. Everyone has a stake in these properties, and the love and passion we all feel for them are ringing loud and clearly this painful evening. Tomorrow morning, Seth, Matt and I will begin the process of renewing this beautiful property and making it even more spectacular than it was before. Our hearts go out to Nicole LaFountaine, Patrick, PJ, Bob Howard and others in the LaFountaine building, and we will help one another get the commercial district ready for summer 2012. There is a lot of hard work ahead for all of us. We feel blessed that no one was injured, and proud to be part of this beautiful community. –Andrew”
It was a long night for all Fire Islanders. Most of all it was a long night for the hundreads of Firefighters who worked into the night risking their lives to protect our beloved Island. I want to personally give thanks to each and everyone of you and a special thanks specifically to the Fire Island Pines Fire Department.
We will rebuild.