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Mar 18, 2015 3:09 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: Attorney for Owner of Destroyed Mansion in East Hampton Says Fire Was Horrible Accident

Mar 20, 2015 10:32 AM

UPDATE, THURSDAY, 12:30 P.M.:

Attorney Errol Margolin, who represents Peter Morton, said that the home at which Mr. Morton spends his summers is "a total loss."

Mr. Margolin said that although he doesn't know the exact circumstances of the incident, he was told that there was a construction worker on the roof with a blow torch—working during 40 mph winds. He said he was told that sparks blew from the blow torch to an area of the roof that did not have a fire shield on it, causing the entire house to catch fire.

He said contractor Greg D'Angelo was on site.

"It sounds like it was a horrible accident,” Mr. Margolin said. This is [Mr. Morton's] East Hampton residence. He loves his house … now he doesn't have a house."

Mr. D'Angelo did not immediately return a call for comment.

Ken Collum, the village's fire marshal, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

UPDATE, 10 P.M.:

Chief Richard Osterberg, Jr. said the firefighters were battling tough conditions while putting out the fire on Wednesday.

"With the wind and the cold, things started freezing up as the temperature dropped as the day went on," he said Wednesday night. "The wind really, really advanced the fire. Probably a good 50 percent of the house was involved and then the wind just pushed it right through the house. The house is a complete and total loss."

Chief Osterberg said it didn't help that the house was on a dead end road, which made it difficult to get the trucks down the street. The firefighters had to park trucks in neighbors' driveways and cut down hedges and trees to get in a good position to fight the flames.

"Everybody did a very good job," he said. "Mutual aid departments were just phenomenal. Our guys did really great job, too."

He said the call came in at 2:35 p.m. and 2nd Assistant Chief Gerry Turza was the first to arrive on the scene. On his arrival, he started "mounting the attack," and noticed that the structure was going to collapse and ordered an exterior attack, according to Chief Osterberg, who arrived 10 minutes later.

The fire burned so much of the house that multiple parts of the structure had collapsed. The department had to bring in an excavator to rip the house apart to get to the unreachable flames, the chief said.

Approximately 100 firefighters fled to the scene from across the South Fork, from as far away as Hampton Bays.

The Sag Harbor Fire Department Rapid Intervention Team sent it's engine company; Springs and Amagansett sent engines and tankers; Southampton sent two tankers; Montauk sent one tanker; North Sea stood by with an engine and covered calls, including attending to the scene of a hard landing at East Hampton Airport, and eventually sent their tanker to scene; and Hampton Bays stood by at the East Hampton Firehouse.

"We were all tied up and they were nice enough to come out," the chief said.

The fire was knocked down within an hour, but crews didn't leave the scene until 9:30 p.m.

Chief Osterberg said the fire appears to be an accident and does not appear to be suspicious at this time.

East Hampton Village Fire Marshal Ken Collum is investigating the fire.

UPDATE, 5:30 P.M.

Crews were knocking the home down as of 5 p.m.

The listed owner of 57 West End Road is West End Partners LLC. The home previously belonged to the Peter Morton Lifetime Trust and was sold to West End Partners LLC. in 2008 for $21.5 million, according to propertyshark.com.

Mr. Morton is a co-founder of the Hard Rock Cafe.

According to East Hampton Fire Department officials, construction workers were working on the house on Wednesday before the fire broke out.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Fire destroyed an oceanfront home at 57 West End Road near Georgica Pond in East Hampton Village on Wednesday afternoon. According to a police officer on the scene, no one was injured in the fire. Police were not certain if anyone was at home in the house. Ambulances were called to the scene to stand by while firefighters battled the blaze.

The East Hampton Fire Department requested assistance from the Montauk, Springs, Amagansett, Sag Harbor, Southampton and North Sea fire departments.

Firefighters called in water tankers from Southampton to continue to battle the blaze before the roof of the home collapsed. According to firefighters, the road was too narrow for the tankers to get through and a dump tank was stationed at the corner of Lily Pond Lane and West End Road to help pump water.

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In my 35 years in in construction out here and having worked on many rooves, the only "torch" that any worker would have on a roof would be a sodering iron for metal work. I think it's unprofessional for the lawyer to go on hearsay until the fire marshal in done with his investigation.
By Justsay'n (42), Southampton on Mar 19, 15 4:58 PM
Wasn't really hearsay. There were numerous people on site who knew the fire was started by the flashing worker's torch. Keep in mind the soldering irons used by flashing mechanics still have an open flame. Very sad. It was a beautiful old house.

The good news:
*Nobody hurt.
*House was under renovation so hopefully most of the owner's valuable possession's were out of the building. (speculation)

Also a hats off to fire departments. Tough road. Narrow. Hard to manuver trucks. ...more
By bird (776), Southampton on Mar 20, 15 11:37 AM
Torch down roofing can have this kind of result. Wouldn't be the first time, and probably won't be the last...
By Mr. Z (11112), North Sea on Mar 19, 15 8:46 PM
Yes an open flame that is about the size of a stove pilot light. But a blow torch it is not.
By Justsay'n (42), Southampton on Mar 20, 15 5:52 PM
It's a Hard Rock Life For Us when the Roof, the Roof, the Roof is on Fire!
By Mouthampton (418), Southampton on Mar 24, 15 1:19 PM
Classy comment.
By Arnold Timer (315), Sag Harbor on Mar 26, 15 6:00 PM