Tenant Thanks Lucky Stars He Got Out Alive

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Michael Lynch at the Service Station Restaurant in East Hampton.

By Stephen J. Kotz

Michael Lynch, 49, had just moved into his new apartment in the Meridian Building, with a third-floor bedroom overlooking Sag Harbor’s Main Street, on December 1.

A waiter at the Service Station restaurant in East Hampton Village, he had gone to bed early Friday morning and looked forward to sleeping in. But what he likes to call his “beauty rest time” was disrupted shortly after 6 a.m. by loud knocks and yelling.

“They were doing some construction at Compass down below,” Mr. Lynch said. “I heard some banging and didn’t think much of it. I just dozed off again.”

But the banging continued, and when Mr. Lynch, clad only in pajama bottoms and a t-shirt made his way down to the second floor he could see fire on the deck outside and smell smoke. At the front door he was greeted by Sag Harbor Village police officer Randy Steyert who told him to grab shoes and a coat and get out.

“I’m thinking it will be a couple of hours, but boy, I’m going to be tired at work,” he said. “But then I’m down on the street and all the trucks start showing up, and you just see the smoke engulf everything.”

Fred Kumwenda.

Mr. Lynch is one of at least five people known to have been displaced from at least four apartments in buildings that were destroyed or damaged by Friday’s devastating fire. Although he has found temporary housing with his sister, Maura Lynch, in Sag Harbor, the fate of the others is unknown.

Mr. Lynch shared an apartment with Fred Kumwenda, who works at the Highway Restaurant in Wainscott, and Mike McQuade, who just happens to be a captain in the Sag Harbor Fire Department. An apartment above Henry Lehr was occupied by Dan Spiegel and his wife, who, according to Sag Harbor Village police were given permission to remove items from their apartment on Friday evening. None of them could be reached for comment.

The community has rallied behind Mr. Kumwenda and Mr. Lynch. Separate crowd-funding pages at crowdrise.com have been set up for the two men. As of Wednesday, $45,900 had been raised for Mr. Kumwenda and $12,935 for Mr. Lynch.

Sag Harbor Fire Chief Tom Gardella said the fire department would offer a helping hand to Mr. McQuade, who is out of the country.

Besides the clothing on his back, the only thing Mr. Lynch escaped with were his house keys with a fob that read “love, Mom” in the handwriting of his mother, who died a year ago in October.

“I can thank my guardian angel and my angel on earth who came and got me out of there,” Mr. Lynch said. “Another 10 minutes….”

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