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Fire

A home on Old Town Road in East Setauket was destroyed by fire Feb. 18. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A tragic fire in East Setauket has left a father and his 10-month-old son in critical but stable condition at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Lisa Ostrowski holds baby Leo with Steven Ortner in the background. Photo from Carolyn Ortner

The fire began slightly after midnight on Feb. 18 on Old Town Road, and the home next to the Old Towne garden center was quickly engulfed by flames due to the high winds that night. Steven Ortner, 30, was able to escape with his son, Leo. However, Ortner’s fiancée Lisa Ostrowski, 31, died in the fire.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, both its homicide squad and arson section are investigating the fire. A preliminary investigation has determined the cause of the fire to be noncriminal in nature. 

A neighbor called 911 to report the fire at 12:01 a.m. Police officers and the Setauket Fire Department arrived on the scene a few minutes later to find the home engulfed in flames. According to SCPD, Ortner escaped through a second-floor window. While he was on the roof ledge, he handed the baby to a passerby below. A responder then took the baby while Ortner tried to go back into the house to save Ostrowski, according to Dave Sterne, the Setauket Fire District’s manager.

Sterne said when Setauket Fire Department Chief Richard Leute arrived on the scene and saw Ortner trying to go inside the home, he advised the father not to do so. Ortner was told to jump and Leute caught him.

Ostrowski was found dead once the fire was extinguished. There were no other occupants at home, and no other injuries were reported.

Barbara Prass set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses for Ostrowski and to help Ortner and Leo once they leave the hospital. Prass is a longtime family friend of the Ortners, being a childhood friend of Steven Ortner’s mother Carolyn. Ortner grew up in the Town of Smithtown and Ostrowski is originally from Centereach.

The GoFundMe Page, titled Tragic Fire support for Lisa, Baby Leo and “Steven,” as of Feb. 22, had 1,400 donors and raised more than $90,000.

In a phone interview, Prass said that Orner’s parents, Carolyn and Clayton, returned to Long Island from the Carolinas as soon as they were notified Friday and have been able to see him and the baby. Prass said it’s a painful time and something that one can see on the news but can never imagine going through. 

“There are no words,” she said.

Prass said at first the parents were told they wouldn’t be able to visit the hospital due to COVID-19, but finally were given the go ahead to visit with Ortner and Leo.

She said Ortner was able to speak the first day when his parents called him, but he was hoarse and medicated. The father has third-degree burns on his head, face and back of arms. His head had to be bandaged, and the other day the father was put on a ventilator. At first, he asked the family to come and pick up Leo.

“I don’t even think he knew Leo was admitted.” she said, adding the baby is still in the hospital with second-degree burns to his forehead and hands. He also has a collapsed lung.

Ortner is now on a ventilator and doctors are monitoring his organs, also his vision as it was blurry, Prass said.

She said from what the parents could gather when talking with their son, Ostrowski handed the baby to Ortner. According to the family friend, he told his parents, “I had to save the baby. I couldn‘t get back to Lisa. I tried.”

Prass said she told Carolyn Ortner that she is sure Ostrowski died protecting her baby.

“It’s just the worst nightmare,” she said. “I hope Steven can live through that.”

In addition to the GoFundMe page, Prass said she and others are trying to find a place where people can drop off clothes and baby items as many community members have offered to do so.

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File photo

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad and Arson Section detectives are investigating a fire that killed an East Setauket woman and injured a man and infant in the early morning hours of Feb. 18.

Sixth Precinct officers responded to the home, located on Old Town Road, after a 911 caller reported a fire at the location at 12:01 a.m. Stephen Ortner, a resident of the home, was able to escape through a second-floor window onto a roof ledge and hand his 10-month-old son to a passerby below, who then handed the child to rescuers. Ortner was then able to climb down to the ground, according to SCPD.

According to Dave Sterne, the Setauket Fire District’s manager, Ortner tried to get back inside to help the child’s mother, Lisa Ostrowski. However, when department Chief Richard Leute arrived on the scene and saw him, he advised the father not to do so as the house was engulfed in flames. Ortner then jumped and Leute caught him.

Ostrowski, 31, the mother of the child, was not able to escape the home and was found dead once the fire was extinguished. Stephen Ortner, 30, and his son Leo Ortner were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital, where the father was treated for serious injuries and his child for non-life-threatening injuries.

There were no other occupants of the home and no other injuries were reported.

A preliminary investigation has determined the cause of the fire to be non-criminal in nature.

Ortner and Ostrowski’s aunt Barbara Iannuzzi-Prass set up a GoFundMe page, Tragic Fire support for Lisa, Baby Leo and Steven. As of Feb. 19, more than $42,000 was raised from nearly 600 people.

Ianuzzi-Prass wrote on the page that Ortner and Ostrowski were engaged. She reported that both Ortner and his son were in the ICU with severe burns and in critical but stable condition.

“Lisa will need a proper funeral and Steven and Leo will need to restart their lives once they are out of the hospital,” Ianuzzi-Prass wrote.

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad and Arson Section detectives are investigating a fire that killed a Selden man this evening.

Sixth Precinct officers responded to the home, located at 357 Magnolia Drive, after a 911 caller reported a fire at the location at 6:20 p.m. After the fire was extinguished, Earl Rahman, 81, a resident of the home, was found dead. There were no other injuries reported.

A preliminary investigation has determined the cause of the fire to be non-criminal in nature.

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Fire broke out at a Strong's Neck horse complex Sept. 21. Photo from Setauket Fire Department

A fire destroyed a structure at a horse complex at 23 Brewster Lane on Strong’s Neck Tuesday.

Flames broke out around 10 a.m., according to Setauket Fire Department Chief Scott Gressin. The SFD received mutual aid in excess of 16 surrounding departments.

The chief said a 19,000 square-feet structure, that was once used as an interior horse-riding arena, had heaving smoke and fire could be seen coming from multiple sides as firefighters arrived on the scene.

Gressin said the first approach was an offensive one; however, considering the fire load inside of the building, the first responders had to take a defensive approach.

There were no horses in the structure as it has not been used as a riding arena in some time. Gressin said horses in a nearby stable were under no threat. Two firefighters with burns were treated and released from the hospital.

Wednesday morning firefighters and investigators were still at the site.

“It continues to be an active fire scene with a hazardous material incident involving buried propane tanks,” Gressin said. “I have multiple agencies working to mitigate the problem.”

He said the SFD is coordinating with the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services. At this time, he cannot anticipate when the investigation will be completed.

Brookhaven’s Chief Fire Marshal Christopher Mehrman said the origin and cause investigation was concluded Tuesday. He said the reason was human error as an electrical conductor that shouldn’t have been energized was. Two electricians who received electrical shocks were transported to the hospital. Mehrman did not have their present status at press time.

Mehrman said the intensity of the fire caused two 1,000-gallon propane tanks to leak. Even though they are underground, the valving is above. He said HazMat technicians are on the scene to control the flow.

The fire marshal said neighbors are not in any danger because the propane is being burned off which means no gas is accumulating.

History

Margo Arceri, vice president of the Strong’s Neck Civic Association and a local historian, said the Brewster Lane property was originally owned by Selah Strong, who was a New York State Supreme Court justice in the 1800s. His children sold it to the Rawson publishing family.

“It became known as Blueberry Bay Farm, and they raised and sold Black Angus cows,” Arceri said. “At that point, it was the oldest continuously running farm in Suffolk County.”

She remembered the farm and the cows growing up on Strong’s Neck.

“I recall as a child being chased by the bulls on several occasions when a few of them escaped from time to time,” she said.

Arceri said it eventually became Spy Coast Farm where horses, which were world-class hunters and jumpers, were bred. The name was influenced by the Culper Spy Ring activity that took place in the area during the Revolutionary War, according to Arceri.

The farm was eventually sold to a private firm.

Photo by Christopher Sabella

The Selden Fire Department was activated for an Automatic Alarm just before 11 p.m. on May 25 at 1000 Middle Country Road in Selden. 

A Selden Fire Department ambulance enroute to the hospital reported flames coming from the roof of Giove’s Funeral Home. 

The initial fire was in the second-floor residence, and in the ceiling above the residence. The residents were alerted and woken by their two dogs barking and were able to escape without injury. 

Employees, who had just left the funeral home, came back, and removed the one funeral casket to a safe location. 

Under the Command of Chief of the Department William Cotty, an initial interior attack was hampered and aborted as the ceiling of the apartment began to collapse on the firefighters. At this time all manpower was removed from the building just two minutes before the roof collapsed into the apartment. 

The Selden Fire Department quickly moved to an exterior attack with ladders from Selden FD, Coram FD and Centereach Fire Department.

In all about 100 firefighters and over 20 pieces of apparatus and support vehicles from Selden FD, Centereach FD, Coram FD, Ronkonkoma FD, Holtsville FD and Farmingville FD contained the fire in a little over an hour.

In addition to the departments above, the Selden Fire Department was assisted on scene by Port Jeff Ambulance, Medford Ambulance and Brookhaven Town Fire Coordinators. Terryville FD and Setauket FD stood by at the Selden FD HQ and handled three additional EMS alarms during the fire. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Brookhaven Town Fire Marshals Office and Suffolk County PD Arson Squad.

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File photo

A Suffolk County Police officer was treated for smoke inhalation after he entered a burning home to evacuate a man and woman in Selden Saturday evening.

Police said 6th Precinct officers responded to a 911 call reporting a fire at a home located at 57 Abinet Court at around 4:55 p.m.

Officer Sean Kalletta entered the burning home and found two residents attempting to rescue their two dogs. Officer Kalletta escorted Robert Baker, 55, and his wife Debra Baker, 51, out of their home and attempted to rescue the dogs. One of the dogs bit the officer. Officer Kalletta was later transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and a dog bite.

The Selden Fire Department responded to the scene to extinguish the fire. First Assistant Chief Keith Kostrna and Farmingville Fire Department Firefighter Richard Piccirello rescued a dog from the residence. Units from the Centereach, Coram, Setauket, Terryville and Medford fire departments also assisted. Police officers transported the dog to Animal Emergency Service in Selden for treatment. The dog is expected to recover. A second dog exited the home on its own and was uninjured.

Suffolk County Arson Section detectives are investigating the cause of the fire.

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Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

After a fire devasted The Meadow Club more than two years ago, the family behind Setauket’s The Curry Club and Port Jefferson’s SāGhar felt like their world was falling apart. 

Known for its weddings in Port Jefferson Station, and being a structure on Route 112 for more than five decades, the building has been fixed and revamped. It’s a whole new sight. 

The Meadow Club’s new look. Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

“Our logo has always been a closed lotus, but the closed lotus represented the fire,” said Kiran Wadhwa, owner, creative director and event planner at the Meadow Club. “The lotus needs to open up and blossom — it represents rebirth, freshness and a peaceful, new environment.”

Wadhwa and her sister, Indu Kaur, took over the club in 2014. 

“We’re looking towards the light at the end of the tunnel,” Kaur said. “Two years ago, we thought we were done, but now we’re excited to bring our gem back to Suffolk County.”

The rebirth of The Meadow Club began after Kaur got the call her venue was a blaze in the early morning of July of 2018. Since then, she and her team had been working hard to get the property back in shape. “This is our legacy,’ Wadhwa said. “We want to leave this behind to our kids.”

But because the venue was so old and outdated, the process took longer than they initially thought. Kaur and Wadhwa had to redo the roof as well as add new air conditioners, sprinkler systems, floors and bathrooms. The permits prior to renovation were also outdated.

“We thought of everything,” Wadhwa said. “Everything we had issues with inside the old building, we fixed.”

Which worked in their favor. Although they didn’t disclose when the grand opening date is, construction is almost done and they’re starting to book weddings for 2021 and 2022.

“Everything is literally brand new,” Wadhwa said. “We build the new COVID guidelines into our construction.”

When one walks through the front door of the new Meadow Club, they are greeted with white walls and marble floors. Several crystal chandeliers hang from the ceilings in each room and the staircase, which was formerly to the right-hand side, now expands on the left. A waterfall is located at the bottom of the stairs, and a live-moss wall sits above it. They added handicap accessible restrooms to the space, redoing everything. 

The Meadow Club’s former look before its fire. Photo from Kiran Wadhwa

There are other changes, as well, including COVID-friendly additions the family made to their venue. Each of the three ballrooms now has their own exits and there is a new outdoor patio full of flowers and evergreens. Owners also installed sanitation stations throughout the property and have planned for sanitizing after each and every event. 

“We don’t want anyone to get sick,” Kaur said. “And we don’t want them to feel unsafe.”

As for the food, they are changing up the menu. They are adding a new chef who specializes in fine Italian cuisine, but also offer Pakistani and Indian food. They also made their kitchen completely Kosher. 

“We’re the only catering hall that offers Halal, Pakistani, Italian and Indian,” Wadhwa said. 

Although for now weddings must be at the 50-person limit, with no mingling, dancing or cocktail hour, the family said they are excited to bring this whole new space to couples walking down the aisle next year and beyond.

A family-owned business, they want their brides to feel special. 

“We’re accommodating and flexible,” Kaur said. “We personalize to each brides’ different needs.”

“I wait for the gasp,” Wadhwa added about the current tours they’re offering. “And I love seeing the look on their faces. The venue is brand new, clean and safe. It’ll be every brides’ dream come true.”

Completely redone by Ronkonkoma-based BELFOR Property Restoration, Project Manager Scott Sommerville said redoing the venue has been a journey. 

“It’s been the most wonderful transition from old to new,” he said. “We resurrected it.”

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Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Riverhead Town Police Department detectives are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the person people who caused a fire at a home in Wading River Monday.

An unknown person allegedly threw an incendiary device was thrown at a residence on Sound Road in Wading River Nov. 16 at around 8 p.m. A resident immediately extinguished the fire and no one was injured. Detectives from the Suffolk County Police Department Arson Section responded to assist in the investigation.

The Riverhead News Review reported owners said it may have involved the resident’s lawn signs, which preached inclusivity and fair treatment of women and minorities.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS (8477), utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails are kept confidential.

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Miller Place Fire Department said they responded to a fire Nov. 26 at a home on Imperial Drive. Photo from MPFD
Miller Place Fire Department said they responded to a fire Nov. 26 at a home on Imperial Drive. Photo from MPFD

The Miller Place Fire Department reported battling a blaze on Imperial Drive Tuesday, Nov. 26.

The fire department reported to its Facebook they were alerted to the fire just before 2 p.m., and First Assistant Chief Joseph McCrain Sr. transmitted a working fire and requested additional resources to the scene.

Firefighters battled the flames that had crawled up the exterior wall to the rear of the home. the department said originated from the basement. Nobody was injured, they said. Interior members of the department located a family cat that was alive an unharmed inside the house.

Mutual aid came from Mount Sinai, Sound Beach, Rocky Point, Middle Island, Coram and Terryville fire departments. The trucks were returned to service around 3:30 p.m.

The Rocky Point Fire Department Company 2 is using a warehouse on Prince Road as its main base. Photo by Kyle Barr

Changes are happening for the Rocky Point Fire Department Company 2, otherwise known as the Black Sheep Company, as the fire district finally settles in to replace the aging firehouse on King Road in Rocky Point.

The night of May 1 the company moved all its equipment and vehicles into one of the warehouses of what was once the Thurber Lumber Yard property. The warehouse has enough room to fit the ladder truck, fire engine, brush truck, two EMS vehicles, and will also be home base for around 40 volunteers. The dirt road out of the property leads onto Prince Road, just a five-minute walk from the old firehouse.

The Rocky Point firehouse on King Road in Rocky Point. File photo by Kevin Redding

Anthony Gallino, the chairman of the board of fire commissioners, said they were lucky to get those trucks in such a close location.

“It would have been a big problem for us,” Gallino said. “We might have been able to relocate some of the equipment into the other firehouses and pulling certain stuff not used as frequently and leaving it out. This is just a block away, and response times probably won’t change at all.”

Mark Baisch, the owner of Landmark Properties and the old Thurber property, said he was approached by the department and didn’t hesitate to offer one of the buildings for free for the fire company’s use. While plans are still in motion to break ground on 40 one-bedroom apartments for seniors, he said the fire department being in that building won’t disturb that development.

“We’ll work around them,” Baisch said.

District manager Ed Brooks said the deconstruction will start May 13 with asbestos removal, which could take from two to three weeks. Once inspection of the building is completed, demolition will begin, and that could take a number of weeks before construction on the new firehouse truly begins. Overall construction could take upward of a year, according to Gallino.

Citing that the aging firehouse, built in the 1950s, had received little upgrades and attention for half a century, the district proposed a $7,250,000 firehouse project that was approved by residents 204 to 197 in an August 2017 vote. Also approved in a separate vote were plans for the purchase of a new ladder truck at a cost of $1,250,000. While plans were originally set to break ground in early 2018, Brooks said the first set of bids came in too high for the project, and when the district put in for a new set of bids, too few came in. The fire district has since changed construction managers and has settled on a new set of bids. The new ladder truck won’t be purchased until after construction of the future firehouse is finished.

The board chairman said the new firehouse is especially important as the community grows.

“This is just a block away, and response times probably won’t change at all.”

— Anthony Gallino

“The other building was outdated, heating and air conditioning was a problem, the bays were so tight that when trucks were moving out, the guys were changing just a foot from a truck coming in and out,” Gallino said. “It’s a conservative building, but it will suit our needs.”

Members and friends of the Black Sheep Company took to Facebook to commiserate about their old firehouse as they moved into the warehouse on Prince Road.

“Tonight is a bittersweet night for the North Shore Beach Fire Company [as] we said goodbye to our firehouse,” local resident Theresa Lattman wrote in a Facebook post May 1. “Our trucks pulled out for the last time, but a new firehouse will be built in its place that will hopefully serve this community for a long time.”