Fire Marshal: Gas Heater Sparked Wainscott House Fire

Unclear whether fire started before or after gas heater detached from wall.

A fire that gutted a Wainscott home in the early morning hours last Thursday was caused by a wall-mounted gas heater that fell to the ground, according to a town fire marshal.

Fire Marshal Tom Baker said on Monday afternoon that following an investigation, the heater – measuring approximately two by two-and-a-half feet – was found to be detached from the wall. It remains unclear if the heater fell before or after the fire started, but Baker said all signs point to the heater being the cause of the fire.

"Everything is pointing to that room," Baker said, referring to a den in the southwest corner of the Sayre's Path house, which belonged to Charlie and Wendy Butler, both of whom were unharmed in the blaze along with their two dogs.

"There was a considerable amount of rust found on the back of the heater itself," Baker said. "It doesn't look like any type of malfunction. Over the years, through normal wear and tear, it may just have worn itself right out."

The heater was located underneath one of the windows in the room, Baker said, not an uncommon location for supplementary heating sources in homes, particularly if a room is in a far corner of a house.

Pointing to the fire alarms which alerted the Butlers, Baker said it served as another reminder – just as people turn back their clocks anyways – that people should check the batteries in their fire alarms.

Baker said Wendy Butler awoke to the smell of smoke last Thursday morning as well as a fire alarm around 4 a.m. Fire crews from Bridgehampton and East Hampton responded to the call, and were on scene for about four hours, though the fire spread quickly throughout the home.

"It was totally engulfed in flames," Bridgehampton First Assistant Chief Gary Horsburgh said. 


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