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Sep 22, 2010 11:58 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Fire breaks out at Southampton Elementary School on Saturday

Sep 22, 2010 11:58 AM

SOUTHAMPTON—Nearly 70 people worked long hours over the weekend to clean up the aftermath of a third-floor fire on Saturday at Southampton Elementary School, with the goal of getting the building in shipshape condition before classes resumed on Monday.

The cleanup effort came after approximately 80 firefighters from four local fire departments turned out to douse the midday blaze on Saturday, which burned the roof in Room 322 of the Pine Street building, according to Southampton Fire Chief Roy “Buddy” Wines IV. There were no injuries. Firefighters from Southampton, Hampton Bays, North Sea and Sag Harbor were working on the scene.

Chief Wines said the fire might have been caused by construction crews working on the exterior of the building, the eastern side facing Southampton Town Hall. “I was told they were welding something,” he said. “I’m not sure what, though.”

On Monday, Southampton School Board President David Dubin said the welding on the exterior of the building ignited a timber in the attic, which eventually led to the roof of the third-floor room catching fire. Mr. Dubin said a second-floor window ledge and a first-floor storage closet sustained water damage.

The cleanup crew, from Renu Restoration and Contracting, a remediation and fire restoration company based in Copiague, was called to the scene after the fire was reported on Saturday at about 12:30 p.m., according to Randy Dobler, the school district’s director of operations.

Mr. Dobler said the crew was prompted to respond through the district’s insurance company. He is not sure how much the cleanup effort will cost, although he noted the district will not be paying for it—and that it will most likely be billed to the insurer of Milcon Construction Corporation, the contractor whose employees were working on the windows before the fire broke. “It won’t be cheap, but I really don’t have the price right now,” he said.

A handful of Southampton school administrators were on the scene on Saturday, including Principal Cookie Richard and School Board Vice President Don King. Ms. Richard said the room is used primarily to provide extra assistance for students struggling with reading. After surveying the damage, administrators determined there was no need to close the school Monday.

Part of the cleanup by the workers included replacing water damaged ceiling tiles, using an infrared gun to detect whether there was any water behind sheetrock and placing plastic curtains on the stairwell and within the classroom, to shield the children from the damage, according to Mr. Dubin.

Mr. Dubin said he was pleased to see a thorough response on the part of the restoration company. He said he was able to observe their work on both days of the weekend.

“I was very impressed,” he said. “Somebody tells you there’s going to be 60 or 70 people, you wonder ... When I was there, a busload arrived for the next team. I didn’t count heads, but there probably were 50 people who arrived Sunday morning.”

An air quality expert also signed off on the building conditions before school officials made the call this weekend to open its doors on Monday, Mr. Dubin said.

The basic cleanup around the damaged room is complete, according to Mr. Dobler. Students who would normally report to the room are presently working out of an adjacent classroom, Mr. Dubin said.

The incident has prompted Mr. Dobler to reevaluate whether welding should occur at the school. The reason the welding was being carried out was because it was a part of an approximately $1 million roofing and masonry repair project that was approved by district voters in May 2009.

“Well we’re looking at the welding now,” Mr. Dobler said. “I don’t want to get a call next weekend. We’re looking at the welding now and see if there’s some other procedures that will allow us to make the repairs other than with welding.”

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Thanks to all responders.

It will be interesting to learn what happened. If this huge response was a reaction to welding work, why did the standard precautions not work?

Also, why is there so much plastic and removed brick work above the windows on the west face of this building?

Weren't the windows replaced in the last year or two? Various structural headers and related brick work were replaced at the time?

What's up with the new work above the windows, was there ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 18, 10 3:28 PM
Who cares! Thank God school was'nt in session!!!
By johnnyhampton (82), Southampton on Sep 18, 10 6:22 PM
Johnnyhampton has the right perspective on this. The smoke and water damage to this old building may be something that takes months to completely clean up. The cleanup may extend well beyond the classroom damaged by the fire. I will be very impressed if this school is open for classes on Monday.
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Sep 18, 10 7:03 PM
I resent that adjective old building indeed It is younger than me! I was in kindergarten when the great hurricane of '38 hit. It is a gracefully grand wonderfullu built edifice of learning.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Sep 20, 10 3:17 PM
Plus, add in the cost of four fire departments responding. What does it cost the taxpayers for just one truck and six fire fighters per hour? Maybe $1000 minimum? Times ten trucks and crews +/- equals $10,000 per hour. Times, what, 6 hours +/- equals $60,000? And this does not include the hourly rate which would apply if the volunteer firefighters were paid (although there are certain health, retirement and disability benefit costs perhaps?).

Our tax dollars paid for every minute of this ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 18, 10 8:37 PM
At $3 a gallon for diesel it would mean that the rigs burn 300 gallons an hour to even come close to your dollar value. No one on the east end gets paid to respond. Our benefits are in place whether a sub catches the building on fire or not. Bad math, PBR.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Sep 19, 10 7:49 AM
2 members liked this comment
Is this building equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system?
By mot (1), water mill on Sep 18, 10 10:12 PM
I don't understand - where did your figures come from? How did you come up with the 6 hours? I think the call went out around 12:30 and was over well before 6:30. In fact, many of the fire personnel were home or back at work by 4:30. If we want a fire department and protection, we need to pay for it. Some of those costs are fixed whether we have a fire or not.
By metsfan2 (163), southampton on Sep 19, 10 2:02 AM
PBR, you will need to change the entire process for fire and emergency response.
Better yet, could you find out exactly how much of the inflated tax bill that is "burgled" from me each year is paid for emergency response? For me, I am happy to include an extra miniscule amount per year in my taxes per year. Better than having to pay up front with a credit card or atm prior during the 911 call before the heroes show up.
By IcanCnovember (15), Southampton on Sep 19, 10 7:49 AM
Thank you to all volunteer fireman and ems that responded to this fire. They are the ones that drop what they are doing to run and help the community in time of need. I for one have no problem with my tax bill when I see what goes out to pay these wonderful volunteers. PBR needs to look at his tax bill and see that most of his taxes goes to the school and not enough to our volunteers.
By favaunt (24), Sag Harbor on Sep 19, 10 8:30 AM
On a more positive note, the quick response by local volunteer fire departments saved the taxpayers of the Southampton school district a small fortune. PBR should try to calculate the cost of loosing this school building for comparison purposes and realize how well this potential tragedy turned out!
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Sep 19, 10 8:37 AM
Thank you to all of our VOLUNTEERS for responding so quickly to this event. This could have been much worse. You always do a great job - - thank you for your service!
By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Sep 19, 10 9:56 AM
Thanks to the all the VOLUNTEER Fire Departments who responded to this fire.
Thanks also to the Assistant Superintendents, Board Members,Administrators, Faculty and Staff that came together at this time. I assure you that the Southampton School District will do everything in its power to have the Elementary School up and running on Monday.

Instead of all the negative ramble about taxes, etc., why don't we just sit back take a deep breath and thank God (whichever one you choose) that ...more
By Happy in the Hamptons (9), hampton bays on Sep 19, 10 1:14 PM
Most Americans believe there is only one God. We may call him by different names and worship him in different ways, but most of us believe there is only one.
By METCOMedia (116), Hampton Bays on Sep 19, 10 2:25 PM
Thank You to all the VOLUNTEER Firepeople who responded and put there lives on the line as they responded to this fire in a quick manner and put it out. Anyone with a complaint about the VOLUNTEERS or, how money is handled to keep there services going can put out their own fire.
By local (106), north sea on Sep 20, 10 12:53 PM
2 members liked this comment
Sounds like a good job all around. Bill the insurance company! I like the sound of that.
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Sep 20, 10 6:29 PM
Good job by the volunteers! Be thankful that no one was injured.
PBR.....seriously? The men and women of the volunteer services work very hard with training to take care of these situations. Long hours for free. It's done because thay love what they do and you can only think about taxes. Really? I have read your negative comments on many of these stories and think you need to just delete your account. Some fire districts do not have new fire hours or new equipment, but they use what they have. ...more
By MMCEMC (1), Sag Harbor on Sep 21, 10 10:12 AM
1 member liked this comment
The basic point raised in the posts above was only that the welding contractor should have to pay for the market value cost of the response. I have commended all responders for their quick and thorough action on this incident and many others.

The first line in the first post of this article on 9/18 was:

"Thanks to all responders."

Later that same day:

"And yes, thank goodness school was not in session.
Well done by the SHFD and all other responders to contain ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 21, 10 3:05 PM
intheknow911, you have just posted two comments saying "Still!!"

It would appear that you disagree with some aspect of my posts above.

Would you please give us a factual basis for this apparent disagreement?

Thank you.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 21, 10 6:40 PM
Story updated at 6:33 PM.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 21, 10 6:52 PM
Updated story includes various details, such as:

"Nearly 70 people worked long hours over the weekend to clean up the aftermath of a third-floor fire on Saturday at Southampton Elementary School, with the goal of getting the building in shipshape condition before classes resumed on Monday."

Add in the various reconstruction costs TBD, and how much will this event cost in total?

Yes, the "guess-timates" above about costs may be way off, and yes insurance may cover a portion ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 21, 10 9:02 PM
Thank God no one was hurt and that the fire was contained!!! I prefer to have an Elementary School in our town than having to go to another school district to educate our children because our building burned down. THANK YOU TO ALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENTS, VOLUNTEERS AND SCHOOL STAFF THAT RESPONDED. Your effort and hard work is very much appreciated !!!
By hamptonmom (5), southampton on Sep 22, 10 10:19 AM
Doesn't the fire marshall issue a report on the cause of the fire? If so, when does that happen plus isn't there an investigation by the contractor's insurance company as part of the claims adjustment process?
By sansouci (9), Southampton on Sep 22, 10 4:44 PM
2 members liked this comment
Well, a voice of sanity.

Welcome to the mix...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 28, 10 11:25 PM