Firefighters battled a hard-to-reach fire in Lulu Kitchen and Bar on Main Street in Sag Harbor Tuesday night. The fire was in an exhaust vent that led from the restaurant kitchen, through a sealed off space on the second floor and out through the roof.
Thick white smoke billowed out of the roof, as firefighters used saws to cut through the metal housing and gain access to the fire, and a crowd gathered on Main Street in a scene that was reminiscent of December 16, 2016, when fire caused extensive damage to the Sag Harbor Cinema.
The initial calls, reporting a fire at the Sag Harbor Variety Store, went out at about 9:20 p.m. Dispatchers quickly corrected the address to Lulu Kitchen and Bar. Within minutes, Sag Harbor fire officials could be heard on the scanner calling for backup from the East Hampton Fire Department and its rapid intervention team. A Sag Harbor ladder truck was set up on Main Street, and an aerial truck from East Hampton was positioned in the parking lot behind the Apple Bank building.
“Definitely, the 5 and 10, would have been one of my worst nightmares,” said Sag Harbor Fire Chief Bruce Schiavoni, who praised his department members and volunteers from East Hampton who arrived on the scene in short order. “I think it was a great performance, and we had a really good turnout,” he said.
“The fire was all through the exhaust ducts” leading out of the kitchen, the chief said, adding that firefighters “took apart the exhaust system from the stove and we had to cut through a wall on the second floor to get to the duct work and cut holes in the roof to get around the vent.”
Firefighters could be seen moving about in the second-floor offices above the restaurant and the In Home store next-door, both of which suffered smoke and water damage. A rear office above the restaurant took the brunt of it. Firefighters broke out its windows and cut through the wall behind one work station. The odor of acrid smoke hung in the air.
Steven Jauffrineaux, the managing director of Lulu, said the restaurant was largely spared. “It was a grease fire with collateral damage to the restaurant,” he said on Wednesday morning as a handful of staffers began to clean up the mess left behind. Mr. Jauffrineaux said he expected the restaurant to be reopen for business “in a few days.”
Firefighters “did an amazing job,” he said, adding their quick response “was a game changer.”
Mr. Jauffrineaux said the restaurant had installed a new stove several days ago to replace an older model, but said he had no reason to suspect that was the cause. He said there was no fire in the kitchen itself, but it began to fill with smoke when the exhaust fan stopped working. Workers went up to the roof, saw the flames, called the fire department and evacuated the building, he said.
Chief Schiavoni said the fire was contained in about 20 minutes and pretty well extinguished in about 45 minutes, although some firefighters remained on the scene until after 11 p.m. while investigators from the East Hampton Town Fire Marshal’s office conducted its initial investigation.
The Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps was on the scene, and the Bridgehampton Fire Department was also called in to stand by at Sag Harbor’s Brick Kiln firehouse.
Lisa Field, an owner of the Variety Store who lives in East Hampton, was spotted on Main Street shortly after the alarm went out. “Oh my God,” she said. “I got a call that the store was on fire.”
Mike Sweeny of Sag Harbor, whose car was parked on Main Street and hemmed in by fire trucks, said he and his girlfriend, Devon Going, had gone to the restaurant to take advantage of an East End Restaurant Week special menu.
“The alarm went off and they said, ‘you have to get out. There’s a fire,’” he said. Patrons were slow to leave, he added, until someone said flames had been spotted.
Craig O’Brien, who runs a clothing company in an office he shares with other businesses above the restaurant, stood with his wife, Carrie. They were joined by Marie-Christine McNally, who runs an interior design firm in a second office above the restaurant, and other tenants, waiting to be allowed to go back in and check out the damage. Joshua Fishbein, the restaurant’s manager, was also on the scene, although he said he had no information to share.
On Wednesday, Ms. McNally said her office, which looks out over Main Street, was largely spared, except for smoke damage.
Michael Butler, who shares office space with Mr. O’Brien in the rear office, said it could have been worse. “It was not as bad as the last fire,” he said, referring to the cinema blaze.