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Fire

Two Halesite firefighters were injured responding to a Huntington Bay blaze. Photo from Halesite Fire Department.

Two Halesite firefighters were injured and a dog was killed in a house fire over the weekend.

Halesite Fire Department responded to reports of smoke and flames at a two-story residence on Bay Drive West in Huntington Bay at approximately 12:35 p.m. Feb. 3, department spokeswoman Kate Deegan said. Hose Rescue Company Lieutenant K.C. Anna was on scene first with his son, firefighter Taigue Anna, and reported the fire to Halesite Fire Department Dispatch.  

Upon arriving at the scene, Chief Greg Colonna was advised by neighbors that the building owner was not at home, but had a dog, according to Deegan. The neighbors had attempted to find the petl. The dog was found later by firefighters during fire operations, however it had perished.  

There were about 50 firefighters on the scene under the command of Colonna and Assistant Chief James Magerle, who were able to quickly extinguish the flames on the first and second floors, according to Deegan. Mutual aid at the scene was provided by Centerport, Huntington and Huntington Manor fire departments.

Two Halesite firefighters were transported to Huntington Hospital for treatment of minor injuries and released, Deegan said.

The Suffolk County Police Arson Squad is investigating the cause of the fire.

GoFundMe campaign seeks to raise money to help firefighter's family recover from tragedy

Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department members Adrian Benvenuti and his family. Photo from GoFundMe.

Cold Spring Harbor firefighters found themselves in the difficult position of having to rush to the aid of one of their own.

Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department responded to a fire alarm at approximately 9:49 p.m. Feb. 2 on Main Street. Upon their arrival, firefighters under the direction of Captain Brendan Fitts were able to quickly extinguish a fire in the closet of the home’s second-floor master bedroom, according to spokesman Steve Silverman.

The Main Street home is owned by Adrian Benvenuti, a 15-year member of the Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department and ex-assistant chief. Benvenuti was able to safely get his three young children out of the house during the fire, Silverman said. His wife, Brenna, was not at home at the time of the fire.

While damage to the residence was limited, Silverman said that the Benvenuti family is expected to be displaced from their home for about three months due to water and smoke damage.

Lieutenant Daniel Martin, a paramedic with the fire department, launched a GoFundMe page to help raise funds to aid the Benvenuti family. At the time of this publication, more than $4,500 of the $10,000 goal has been raised.

Several community members have posted words of encouragement and support on the GoFundMe page including “Cold Spring Harbor strong.” There were several offers of help from both individuals and local business.

The fundraiser for Adrian Benvenuti and his family can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/benvenuti-family-fire-relief-fund.

Huntington Manor firefighters evacuated 15 residents from an early morning apartment blaze Sept. 20.

The fire department responded to initial reports of a structure fire on New York Avenue between East 10th and East 11th streets in Huntington Station at 6:51 a.m., according to fire district spokesman Steve Silverman.

Firefighters found a fire in an apartment building located behind a commercial building and began an aggressive search and rescue. Several neighboring fire departments including Commack, Dix Hills, Greenlawn, Halesite, Huntington, Melville also responded bringing a total of 50 firefighters and 10 trucks to the scene.

Huntington Manor assistant chiefs Jon Hoffman, Chuck Brady and Jim Glidden led crews in evacuating residents and bringing the fire under control within an hour. The fire caused extensive damage to the commercial building and apartments on the first and second floor, according to Silverman.

New York Avenue was closed off in both directions by Suffolk County police during the fire, causing snarls to rush-hour traffic.

The Suffolk County police Arson Squad and Huntington Town fire marshal are investigating the cause of the fire.

Gunther's Tap Room caught fire in May, and a fundraiser was held this week to help restore the historic bar. File photo from Photo from Chris Ciaci.

By Sara-Megan Walsh

It’s said that many hands make for light work, and if that’s true, the outpouring of community support for Gunther’s Tap Room will hopefully have it rebuilt in record time.

The uplifting refrain of “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey could be heard as dozens of Northport residents and their families attended a fundraiser Aug. 13 for Gunther’s Tap Room at the Park Lounge in Kings Park. Gunther’s has been closed since being consumed by an early-morning fire May 23.

John Weeden, owner of Park Lounge, said he hosted the $25-per-person community barbecue and extensive Chinese auction to raise money to help reopen Gunther’s Tap Room, and to financially aid its employees who have been without a job. Weeden declined to say how much was raised in total.

“I’d like to raise enough money to help them pay for whatever bills they have to reopen it. I thought it was the right thing to do.”

— John Weeden

“I’d like to raise enough money to help them pay for whatever bills they have to reopen it. I thought it was the right thing to do,” said Weeden, who worked as a bartender at Gunther’s for 13 years. “I feel [Pete Gunther] would want that bar reopened. It was his legacy.”

Peter Gunther Sr., a late Northport native and ex-chief of the Northport Fire Department, owned and operated Gunther’s Tap Room since the 1960s, according to current co-owner Brad Vassallo.

“Gunther’s is the bar of the people,” he said. “It’s been basically built amongst the patrons.”

Vassallo, who purchased Gunther’s with Eddie McGrath in 2016, said they are currently in the process of completing structural repairs to the more than 100-year-old building to make it safe and compliant with modern building codes.

“The town has been remarkable in terms of helping the process,” Vassallo said. “They and the community have been fantastic in trying to help us out — letting us do what we need to get this place reopened.”

How much it will cost to rebuild and restore the landmark bar to its former glory is still an unknown, according to Vassallo, saying that “it will be substantial.” The owners said they have run into a number of unforeseen repairs that have slowed down the process.

But several community members have stepped forward, offering donations of building supplies and skills to speed up that process. Some have offered their help to lay down new hardwood floors, and others offered to fix up the bathrooms.

“The community [has] been fantastic in trying to help us out — letting us do what we need to get this place reopened.”

— Brad Vassallo

“We are going to keep the aesthetics as similar as we can,” Vassallo said. “There will need to be some changes, but the color scheme and the way the bar was set up — we are going to keep it as close as we can to the original form.”

With Gunther’s closed for reconstruction, bartender Jani Zubkovs said it’s been difficult for him and the other employees. They’ve stayed in touch over the last few months on updates on the repairs and in trying to find other work.

“It’s an eyesore right now,” Zubkovs said. “I miss all the people, all my regulars. It’s the local Northport place where everybody knows each other.”

In an attempt to offset the financial hardship, Zubkovs has picked up bartending two nights a week at Elijah Churchill’s Public House on Fort Salonga Road in Northport.

Dozens of area businesses contributed to Sunday’s fundraiser by donating goods and services for the Chinese auction.

For those who missed the event, a GoFundMe campaign has been set up, with a goal of $75,000 to help the business reopen. Visit www.gofundme.com/gunthers-tap-room for more information or to donate to the restoration cause.

Despite the disruptions in construction, Gunther’s owners remain hopeful that beer will be flowing again within the next couple of months.

“It’s disappointing that me and Eddie just bought the place to have this kind of situation happen,” Vassallo said. “The primary reason we took it over is that we made a vow. We wanted to keep Gunther’s Tap Room as it was, as Pete Gunther made it to be. We are doing everything we can to do that.”

The Rocky Point Fire District’s North Beach Company 2 station is located at 90 Kings Road. File photo by Kevin Redding

Sounding all alarms. Big changes within the Rocky Point Fire District will be left up to voters next month.

On Aug. 8, between 3 and 9 p.m., qualified residents in the district are encouraged to take to the North Beach Company 2 firehouse on 90 King Road to decide the fate of the decades-old building.

Following a resolution adopted by the Board of Fire Commissioners in June, voters will decide on two propositions: an authorization to completely demolish the existing firehouse and construct a new one on its footprint with updated infrastructure with a maximum, an estimated cost of $7,250,000; and the purchasing of a new aerial ladder truck with a maximum estimated cost of $1,250,000.

“It needs a lot of renovations and it’s not cost-effective to renovate. It’s cost-effective to look to the future to make it better.”

— Edwin Brooks

According to the fire district, if the propositions are approved, residents will see an increase in taxes, but will gather interest on each proposition in no more than 30 years and 20 years, respectively.

Built in the early 1950s, the current building has been in need of repair and renovation for decades, to accommodate for more modern requirements of firefighters — from new safety regulations to larger updates to equipment and apparatuses as well as mandatory handicap-accessibility.

A new firehouse will make for better safety to the community as well, according to fire district commissioners.

“This enables us to continue the service we’re already providing well into the future,” District Vice Chairman Kirk Johnson said at last month’s commissioner meeting. “It’s just a modern, environmentally-conscious building that will be able to run over the next 20, 30 years — one of our main focuses with the new building.”

Rocky Point Fire District Secretary Edwin Brooks echoed Johnson’s words.

“The old one has reached the end of its useful life,” he said. “It needs a lot of renovations and it’s not cost-effective to renovate. It’s cost-effective to look to the future to make it better. It’s good for everybody — good for the fire department, good for the public. It’s a win-win situation.”

Brooks said there are no projected tax figures or construction timelines as of yet in the event that the propositions are approved.

A fire destroyed a barn on Ada Lane in Setauket June 19. Photo by Dennis Whittam

An early morning fire left a Setauket barn destroyed Monday, June 19. The barn, which was more than 300 years old, was located on the property that once belonged to a family with deep roots in the village.

At 4:33 a.m. the Setauket Fire Department responded to the scene at Ada Lane off Route 25A in Setauket. Larry Hall, the department’s public information officer, said firefighters on the scene encountered a fully involved fire of the 30-by-30-foot structure that was used for storage.

In addition to the Setauket Fire Department, the Port Jefferson, Stony Brook and Terryville fire departments were also on the scene to assist in distinguishing the fire, which burned for approximately two and a half hours. The Selden Fire Department and the Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps were on standby at the Setauket headquarters.

A fire destroyed a barn on Ada Lane in Setauket June 19. Photo by Dennis Whittam

Hall said one of the main concerns was a neighbor’s house, which is situated approximately 40 feet from the barn, because plastic on the home was beginning to melt. However, the fire did not spread to adjacent properties.

According to Brookhaven town historian Barbara Russell, the barn is on the same property of the home known as the Micah Jayne House in the Three Village area. The land belonged to the Jayne family for generations. The family can trace its roots back to one of the first settlers in Setauket, William Jayne, a native of Bristol, England, who immigrated to the United States in the 17th century. The property was also the site of the Lade Brae nursery for years.

Russell said 20 years ago she toured the barn with an architect historian who said the barn appeared as if it was built between 1680 and 1720, and he called it a unique structure. One of the distinguishing features of the barn was hand-hewn braces.

“It had elements of both Dutch barn construction and English barn construction,” Russell said.

The historian said while the structure of the barn remained the same through the centuries, a previous owner approximately 20 years ago re-shingled the roof and added board-and-batten siding.

No firefighters were injured while fighting the fire. The Suffolk County arson squad and Town of Brookhaven fire marshal have been notified for further investigation, and the town will demolish the remnants of the barn.

Russell said she feels sorry for the family that currently owns the property as well as the local community.

“We have lost a piece of our very early history and, unfortunately, it’s not replaceable,” Russell said.

Firefighters respond to house fire. Photo by Jack O’Loughlin

The Commack Fire Department responded to a house fire on Astor Court shortly before 2 a.m. Monday, June 12, according to the fire department.

Firefighters arrived to find five residents — two adults and three children — safely evacuated with flames engulfing the home. About 50 firefighters battled the blaze and were assisted by the Kings Park, Smithtown, and Hauppauge fire departments. The East Northport Fire Department provided standby coverage and the Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps was on the scene for EMS support.

The fire was brought under control in approximately a half-hour, under the direction of Commack Fire Chief Rich Myers and Second Assistant Chief Bobby Wilkins. The cause of the fire appears to be accidental, and is under investigation by the Town of Smithtown and Commack Fire Marshals. The home was extensively damaged, and the Red Cross was on the scene to assist the family.

Gunther's Tap Room caught fire in May, and a fundraiser was held this week to help restore the historic bar. File photo from Photo from Chris Ciaci.

By Victoria Espinoza

Gunther’s Tap Room was gutted after a fire consumed the walls of the bar Tuesday morning, May 23.

The fire at Gunther’s, a mainstay in the Northport Village community, required the response of more than 60 firefighters to the scene after Northport fireman Jake Milliken passed the bar in the morning while driving on Main Street and noticed the smoke, according to Steve Silverman, public information officer for the Huntington Fire Chiefs Council.

The department said the fire started at about 7 a.m. and was brought under control within an hour, however it took another two to do a complete overhaul of the establishment.

“It was very labor intensive because of the construction of the property,” Northport Fire Department Chief Brad Wine said in a phone interview. “The body of the fire wasn’t tremendous but it was in the walls and ceiling so we pretty much had to gut it.”

Wine said the firefighters had to remove the tin ceiling and open up all of the walls to ensure there was no chance of an additional fire starting.

Three firefighters, two from Northport and one from Kings Park, suffered minor injuries including smoke inhalation and back and ankle injuries from slipping, and were transported to Huntington Hospital and St. Catherine’s Hospital. Wine said all three are on the mend and home recovering.

Wine said it was difficult responding to the call, knowing the importance of Gunther’s for the community.

The inside of Gunther’s after firefighters worked to stop the fire and inspect the establishment. Photo from Chris Ciaci

“Pete Gunther was a former chief with us in the department, I knew him my whole life, and I graduated high school with Eddie [McGrath] so it was tough to see something like this happen to a local business,” he said. McGrath, a former bartender at Gunther’s became the owner of the bar after Gunther died last year.

“Everyone knows Gunther’s, it’s a landmark in Northport,” Wine said.

Northport Police Chief Bill Ricca said the department received an alarm from Milliken, as well as a few other residents.

The police assisted the fire department with evacuating five people from apartments on the second and third floor of the building.

“The fire department did a really good job of containing the fire,” Rica said. “These old buildings are tinder boxes, and we were pretty fortunate that is was contained to the first floor, with minor damage on the other two floors.”

Ricca agreed it was sad to see this happen to the historic bar.

“We’re hopeful they get the spot up and running again,” he said. “It’s a staple to the Northport community, and a we hope they can successfully recover it.”

The Centerport, East Northport, Kings Park, Greenlawn and Eaton’s Neck fire departments responded to the scene to help. The fire is currently under investigation by the Suffolk Police Arson Squad and Northport Fire Marshal, and no determination has been made for the cause of the fire. Suffolk Fire-Rescue Coordinators, Emergency Management and the American Red Cross were on the scene to provide assistance with relocating displaced residents.

Ricca said neighboring businesses Clipper Ship Tea Company and 7T8 European Fusion also suffered some fire and water damage as a result of the incident.

Firefighters battle the blaze at a home in Huntington. Photos from Huntington Manor Fire Department.

On Feb. 17 at 2:45 p.m., the Huntington Manor Fire Department was dispatched to a report of a house fire on Pidgeon Hill Road in Huntington. Arriving units were confronted with a fully involved, home fire. About 65 firefighters using 10 trucks battled the blaze, which was controlled within an hour. A resident of the home was transported to Huntington Hospital by the Huntington Community First Aid Squad, for treatment of non-life-threatening burns.

Firefighters battle the blaze at a home in Huntington. Photos from Huntington Manor Fire Department.

The Melville, Huntington and Greenlawn Fire Departments and HCFAS provided assistance at the scene, with the Halesite Fire Department standing by at Manor headquarters. Fire ground operations were under the command of Huntington Manor chiefs Jon Hoffmann, Chuck Brady and Jim Glidden. The Suffolk County Police arson squad and Town of Huntington fire marshal were on the scene to determine the cause of the fire.

Scenes of the fire that spread through several townhouse units in Centerport. Photo from Centerport Fire Department

The Centerport Fire Department responded to a fire in the Bull Calf Landing Townhouse Complex on Bull Calf Lane early Tuesday morning, Jan. 24.

Scenes of the fire that spread through several townhouse units in Centerport. Photo from Centerport Fire Department

At about 1:10 a.m. more than 100 firefighters from Centerport assisted by Northport, Greenlawn, Halesite, Huntington, Huntington Manor, Cold Spring Harbor, East Northport, Eaton’s Neck and Kings Park FD’s battled the blaze with EMS support from Commack and Huntington ambulance.

Strong winds from the nor’easter storm that swept through the area hampered firefighters’ efforts, as they worked several hours to knock down the flames that spread through several townhouse units.

About 20 residents were safely evacuated from the building that later collapsed, and there were no injuries reported. Centerport firefighters provided shelter for some of the displaced residents at the Centerport firehouse.

The fire is under investigation by the Suffolk Police Arson Squad and Town of Huntington Fire Marshal. The firefighting operation was under the command of Centerport Fire Chief Tom Boyd and Assistant Chiefs Rich Miltner and Andy Heglund. Boyd commended the firefighters for their efforts working in adverse conditions, and thanked the mutual aid departments for their assistance.

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