Fire Island blaze destroys nightclub, damages local homes

Fire Island was hit by a large fire that engulfed an entertainment complex there. Fire Island is just south of New York's Long Island.

A nightclub complex that sold with other properties for $17 million last year in a Fire Island community known as an enclave for gays was among the structures destroyed in an overnight blaze, officials said Tuesday.

Several homes also were damaged by the fire, fueled by burning embers from the initial blaze in the Fire Island Pines community south of New York's Long Island. Some fires were still burning by midday Tuesday.

No injuries were reported, but it took hundreds of firefighters from 28 local volunteer fire departments on Fire Island and neighboring Long Island to extinguish the blaze, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko said. He said officials from the Suffolk County arson squad were at the scene, though it was still too early to determine if the fire was suspicious.

Lesko added that officials still aren't sure how or where the fire started. He said it was too early to estimate the total amount of damages.

Among the properties damaged or destroyed were the Pavilion nightclub and the C.F. LaFountaine restaurant. Other businesses included the Sip & Swirl, the Pines Bistro and other structures containing offices, Lesko said.

Fire Island Pines is one of many communities that dot the island vacation hotspot. Much of the island is accessible only by boat.

The Pavilion nightclub and other properties were purchased last year by a group of developers including former New York City broadcast journalist Andrew Kirtzman. The New York Times noted in a story about the sale last year that Fire Island Pines residents earn more than $300,000 annually and summer rentals often fetch as much as $10,000 a week.

Seth Weissman, a partner of Kirtzman's in FIP Ventures, noted that Fire Island Pines "is a community with some of the most accomplished, affluent and creative figures in the gay community. They demand a high level of services and amenities and we will give it to them."

A 2010 press release announcing the sale of the property noted that Kirtzman, who has appeared on both WCBS-TV and NY1, started his journalism career at the age of 17 when he began publishing "The Fire Island Villager."

"The Pines is both a chic international destination and a small town, with its own longstanding traditions," Kirtzman said at the time. "We're intent on preserving the very qualities that make the Pines unique."

Kirtzman didn't immediately respond to telephone and email inquiries Tuesday, but he posted a statement on Facebook.

"The air in the harbor is still thick with smoke, but the fire has not spread anywhere else, thanks to the incredible work of the Pines Fire Department and the departments that raced to its aid," he said.

"We will help one another get the commercial district ready for summer 2012," Kirtzman added. "There is a lot of hard work ahead for all of us. We feel blessed that no one was injured, and proud to be part of this beautiful community."

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