By Mike Busch
I spoke with eyewitness Jen Terry Podlaski this afternoon who was one of the very few people around to see last night’s fire at Watch Hill. Jen was sleeping on her boat in the marina when her husband heard the Davis Park Fire Department alarm and jumped up and screamed “something is on fire!” at 1:55 a.m. They looked out and saw a huge fire already starting to engulf the Whalehouse Point Restaurant. They immediately called the Police and were told they were the second call but the first caller had just reported a small fire. Jen informed them that this was no small fire, the building was engulfed and was lighting up the entire marina.
At 2:01 the Davis Park Fire Department arrived and had water on the fire by 2:11 a.m and were shortly joined by other Fire Departments, hitting the fire from several angles. Jen said “Thank God the marina was nearly empty, this could have been a disaster”. If the marina was full like it was last weekend or if the wind was blowing things could have been much worse.
The fire was finally out at around 3:30 a.m. with the restaurant and snack bar a total loss. Everyone that visits Watch Hill knows how much work Doug Biviano of Love Fins and his family put into the place, hopefully they can make a quick recovery. Be sure to visit them at Sailors Haven in the meantime. Thanks to all the first responders and the Davis Park Ferry Company that transported firefighters from the mainland. Jen also sent in the photos below and the compelling video above.
Our friends at the Fire Island National Seashore issued a press release in the aftermath of the fire at Watch Hill last night:
Structural Fire Damages Fire Island National Seashore’s Restaurant at Watch Hill Patchogue, New York
– The National Park Service announced today that a structural fire occurred at Watch Hill’s concession operated Whalehouse Point Restaurant in the early morning hours of September 4. Suffolk County Police Department, Suffolk County Fire Rescue and Emergency Services Coordinators (FRES); and Fire Departments from Ocean Beach, Ocean Bay Park, Davis Park, Saltaire, Fire Island Pines, Patchogue, North Patchogue, Hagerman and Blue Point responded to the scene and extinguished the fire. Bayport, Fair Harbor and Cherry Grove Fire Departments were standing by if needed.
NPS law enforcement and maintenance employees provided operational support – ensuring all Watch Hill visitors and residents were safe, and providing technical and site information to the first responders.
Davis Park Ferry Company transported mainland firefighters to the scene on Fire Island. The incident response was well coordinated and well managed. All of the responding parties and agencies worked together as a team to safely extinguish the fire as quickly as possible.
There were no fatalities or reported injuries. Preliminary findings indicate that the restaurant facility sustained extensive structural, smoke and water damage. By Wednesday afternoon, NPS officials secured the area with safety fencing.
Local law enforcement agencies and National Park Service officials are investigating all possible causes of the fire, as well as the extent and impact of the incident.
Watch Hill remains open to the public through Columbus Day. The marina, camp store, and campground will continue to operate. While lifeguard operations concluded for the season after Labor Day, the NPS has scheduled visitor programs and Visitor Center weekend hours through mid-October.