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Jul 8, 2013 2:07 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Springs Couple Whose House Was Destroyed In Sunday Fire Reunites With Pet Dog

Jul 9, 2013 5:03 PM

When flames broke out, devouring parts of the upper floors of a Springs house on Sunday afternoon, its owners, were at the ocean, but one furry and fearful family member was left behind.

Cooper, a golden retriever who turns 11 years old on August 27, was upstairs in the Old Stone Highway home when firefighters found and rescued him, reuniting him with his thankful husband-wife owners, Lynn and Barry Weinberg.

The blaze broke out sometime around 4 p.m. and resulted in two firefighters seeking treatment for heat exhaustion at Southampton Hospital. They were released later that day, said Amagansett Fire Chief Dwayne Denton.

First Assistant Chief Allen Bennett Jr. rescued the old dog, whom he found cowering in a corner, according to Chief Denton.

About 40 Amagansett Fire Department volunteers responded and had the fire under control in about 20 to 25 minutes. Tanker trucks from the East Hampton and Springs fire departments were called in to assist, as were an aerial ladder truck and a rapid intervention team from the East Hampton Fire Department, to assist in case anyone fighting the fire in the building was injured.

Chief Denton said the heat was so intense that he pulled some of his volunteers out and sent East Hampton volunteers in.

Firefighters left the scene at about 7:30 p.m. and a small “rekindle” was reported on Monday morning, but extinguished in about 30 minutes.

East Hampton Town Fire Marshal Tom Baker on Tuesday said the cause of the fire remained under investigation, but that it is “not at all” suspicious. It is believed to have originated on the third floor, which was made up of two unfinished parts used for storage, as well as an art studio, he said.

On Monday, Mr. Weinberg, 75, standing outside his damaged house—in the same shirt and shorts he was wearing the day before, he pointed out—said a modem for a wireless router came into the house up there and was being considered as a possible source.

The studio was his, he said. “I paint, but I’m not a painter,” he observed.

In addition to saving Cooper, the firefighters also hauled out to safety several large paintings Mr. Weinberg said, pointing out the pieces of artwork standing up against a wall in the garage, which was not damaged in the fire.

He and his wife, 68, were packing up destroyed belongings that afternoon to drop off at the dump. The couple said they had lived there since 1989 and, prior to that, used to live across the street.

“The other things we can live without,” said Ms. Weinberg, as she tossed yet another bag into their car. “Things are only things.”

The roof was missing and there were big black char marks on the house. Ash covered the lawn, where salvaged bottles of alcohol, some of Mr. Weinberg’s swim trucks and other clothes lay out to dry. On one side of the house, a small library’s worth of books, including many children’s titles, were singed. In the back, a brightly colored birdhouse stood out amid a sea of ash and a toppled outdoor sun umbrella. He and his visiting grandchildren had painted it that day before heading off to the beach, Mr. Weinberg said. The first floor was damaged by water.

The couple expressed repeated gratitude to the firefighters and said several times they were glad no one was hurt.

Cooper was already staying at a friend’s house nearby. “I don’t think we’ll bring him back,” Ms. Weinberg said. “It’s just too unsavory here.”

The family pet usually stays in a downstairs bathroom, she said, noting how he enjoys leaning against the cool toilet, but for some reason, he went upstairs on the day of the fire, she explained.

“Why? I don’t know, because usually he likes to be cool, and it would have been much hotter there, so I can’t imagine,” she said. “My sense is that there must have been a crackling noise from the fire that he was probably barking at.”

When the family headed out to Two Mile Hollow that day, they left Cooper to mind the house, even though he loves to swim, too.

“We don’t take him too often, because he gets so sandy,” Ms. Weinberg said, gesturing toward a swimming pool on the other side of the yard and noting, “When you’re heading in that direction, he’s right with you with the hope that he’ll get to swim.”

Mr. Weinberg recalled how what he found “most fascinating” about this whole episode was how they were on their way back home with lobsters for dinner, when they found the road blocked by police. “They said, “You can’t go here,” he said.” We said, “We live here.”

Shortly after, they realized the house in flames was theirs.

But in the end, they got their pet back, and they ate their lobsters too.

Staff Writer Virginia Garrison contributed reporting for this article.

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