At about 4 a.m. on Thursday, November 1, in Wainscott, the Butlers were awakened by the sound of a smoke detector blaring.
The two mobilized quickly. It was Wendy Butler who was awakened first by the smoke detector, recalled her husband, Charlie, a secretary and treasurer for the Bridgehampton Fire District, on Monday.
Mr. Butler said he could see smoke but he couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. He went in search of a fire extinguisher—there was one in the garage, another near the kitchen sink—and Ms. Butler began moving the cars out of harm’s way. Mr. Butler got their two golden retrievers, Slater and Willow, out of the home.
“That was pretty much it,” a still-in-shock Mr. Butler said in a telephone interview on Monday. “Sat back and watched it burn.”
Hours later, their home was completely charred.
The Bridgehampton Fire Department and East Hampton Fire Department responded to the enormous fire at the Butlers’ Sayre’s Path home. Approximately 40 Bridgehampton Fire Department volunteers responded, according to Fire Chief Tim Doran at the time. The East Hampton Fire Department sent about 25 members and an engine to prevent flying embers from spreading to neighboring homes.
The fire was under control by around 5 a.m., though firefighters were spraying the site until 11 a.m. There was “a small re-ignition” over the weekend, Chief Doran said on Monday, due to smoldering embers that firefighters couldn’t get to.
A propane gas heater that fell off the wall in their office space, which was located in the southern part of the two-story home, caused the fire, said Mr. Butler. The Butlers have lived in their Wainscott home since 1990.
Currently, the Butlers are staying at a friend’s home in North Sea. They’re working on “trying to get everything back together,” he said.
“It’s just great how many people showed up,” Mr. Butler said of the night of the fire. “They deserve so much credit for helping us. Incredible. Overpowering.”
The Butlers escaped with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Mr. Butler wasn’t even wearing shoes when he emerged from the home. “His shoes got burnt up in the house,” according to Gary Horsburgh, the 1st assistant chief for the Bridgehampton Fire Department.
Some Bridgehampton Fire Department officials have tried to organize a fundraiser for the Butlers this weekend—but the couple have refused the offer. Mr. Butler said that when his son, C. Scott Butler, 21, died after complications from hemophilia two years ago, the community gave generously to them. And, since the fire, many have given them clothes, a place to stay, and overall support in “every which way you can imagine.”
“We just feel a little guilty because they just took care of us so well because of the passing of our son,” he said. “They’ve just given too much. They’re just too nice, too loving.”
Eventually, the Butlers plan to rebuild in the same spot in Wainscott. “I don’t think there’s a doubt that I’m going to build there again,” he said.
Staff writer Virginia Garrison contributed to this story.