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Mar 31, 2017 7:57 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

First Responders Pull Woman From Hampton Bays Fire

A home on Springville Road in Hampton Bays caught fire on Thursday night. GREG WEHNER
Apr 5, 2017 11:16 AM

A Hampton Bays woman and one of her two dogs were rescued by the Southampton Town Police, with the help of one of her neighbors, on Thursday night, March 30, after fire engulfed her home and eventually caused a propane tank to explode.

Town Police responded to the structure fire at the house on Springville Road in Hampton Bays at 10:50 p.m.

Town Police Detective Tim Wilson, who was the first responder at the scene, reported that the residence was consumed by fire. After a neighbor, Melissa Donelan, 40, informed him that a woman was still inside the burning home, Det. Wilson entered the structure and located Valerie Tomasheski—who appeared to be in a state of shock, according to police.

Town Police Officer Christopher Florea then arrived at the home with Hampton Bays Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief James Kappers. Both entered the residence to assist Det. Wilson. Ms. Tomasheski and one of her dogs were pulled to safety, although attempts to rescue a second dog were unsuccessful due to thickening smoke and overwhelming heat.

Responders were able to move Ms. Tomasheski, her dog and her vehicle out of range of the fire before a propane tank exploded on the property, damaging the home and a neighboring residence.

The fire burned so hot that it melted the vinyl siding on a neighboring home, which Ms. Donelan rents. At one point, the home was even on fire, and sustained enough damage to make the second home unhabitable for at least six weeks.

Ms. Tomasheski declined to comment on the incident through a family member on Tuesday.

Ms. Donelan said she smelled smoke the night of the fire, and her father looked outside to see the neighbor’s deck on fire at about 10:45 p.m. That’s when she said she grabbed her cellphone and called 911 to notify emergency services of the fire. She ran next door and began knocking on various doors and windows, but nobody answered.

Ms. Donelan said the flames were spreading, so she ran back around the house and noticed someone was in a bedroom, so she started banging on the window—but, still, nothing.

Finally, Ms. Donelan said she entered the house through a side door and saw Ms. Tomasheski walking around in circles, “like she had just woken up.”

“I opened up the house and said, ‘You have to get out! You have to get out! There’s a fire!’” Ms. Donelan said, noting that Ms. Tomasheski’s two yellow Labrador retrievers were barking, but not viciously. “I was trying to get her out, but she was just walking in circles.”

Then, Ms. Donelan said, she heard knocking at the front door—and that’s when Det. Wilson arrived.

“I ran out,” she said. “He asked if anyone was in the house, and I said, ‘Yes, a woman and her two dogs.’”

Ms. Donelan on Tuesday noted that she had been arrested by Suffolk County Police in November 2015 and charged with felony DWI under Leandra’s Law—and was happy that, as a result of the arrest and her subsequent treatment for alcoholism, she was sober at the time of the fire. It enabled her to help her neighbor get out of the burning house, and possibly saved her own property as well.

“Sobriety is major, and it saved my life on November 15, and it helped other people now,” she said.

The Southampton Town Detective Division and Southampton Town fire marshals are currently investigating the cause of the fire, according to police officials. No injuries were report to any responding emergency personnel.

The Hampton Bays Fire Department, East Quogue Fire Department, Southampton Fire Department, Flanders Fire Department, Hampton Bays Volunteer Ambulance and New York State Troopers also responded to the scene.

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Hooah! Thanks officers Wilson and Florea.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Mar 31, 17 10:29 PM
2 members liked this comment
Detective Wilson you put your life on the line and the other officers that responded.We are proude of you all.
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Apr 1, 17 10:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
Well done all.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Apr 1, 17 12:19 PM
2 members liked this comment
HBFD had a fast response time as well and did the best they could under tough fire and smoke conditions to try and save the property. They did however save the adjacent home next door as it also began to catch fire ! Hampton Bays is blessed with great emergency service agency's all around . Thank you to both badges on this call
By Searider (4), Flanders on Apr 2, 17 6:13 PM
Great Job!

Those of you interested in helping our neighbor Valerie Chism Tomasheski can do so here:

By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Apr 6, 17 1:45 PM
Well that link didn't work, but a gofundme campaign has been started to help Valerie.

By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Apr 6, 17 1:46 PM
Ms. Donelan deserves a very big round of applause. She noticed the fire, called 911 and ran in to get the woman. When the woman wouldn't come with her, fortunately the first responders arrived and got her out. She risked her life as an untrained civilian running into a fire.
Congratulations to an unsung hero!!!
By baywoman (165), southampton on Apr 8, 17 12:37 PM
You were extremely very brave to act the way you did. Proud of you!
By JDPD61@AOL.COM (10), HAMPTON BAYS NY on Apr 10, 17 5:57 PM