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Westhampton Blaze Tests Firefighters’ Mettle

By SEAN REAGAN Staff Writer

WESTHAMPTON, MA – Contending with a lack of available water, firefighters from six departments had to shuttle water from a hydrant at Hampshire Regional High School to put out a fire Thursday morning that displaced a man from his Pine Island Road home.

The fire, reported at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, devoured two rooms of Michael S. Figarsky’s home. Heat, smoke and water damage rendered the balance of the structure unlivable.

Figarsky’s home is on Pine Island Road, a one-lane throughway bordering Pine Island Lake. Westhampton Fire Chief John Shaw said today that fighting the fire was complicated by the fact that only the attack pumper could park at the site of the fire.

The initial attack, Shaw said, beat the fire back but could not contain it because there are no fire hydrants in that area and the nearby lake was frozen. Lacking a viable water source, firefighters had to resort to shuttling water from another source by tanker.

The attack pumper tied a hose at the entrance to Pine Island Road. Water tanks set up nearby were filled by tankers that went to a hydrant at Hampshire Regional High School for water and returned to unload it into the portable tanks – a 30-minute process. Water was then pumped some 900 feet to the attack pumper.

”It’s the way you have to fight fires when you have no hydrants,” said Shaw.

Shaw said the fire appears to have begun near the fireplace where a wood stove was located, but cautioned that no specific cause had been determined. He estimated total damages to be $150,000.

”The house is fixable, though,” said Shaw. ”We stopped the fire in the room of origin. It could have taken the entire house.”

Fire officials say they don’t know where Figarsky is staying. The Red Cross was on the scene to offer assistance.

Shaw praised his department, saying that firefighters had discussed and planned for fires in the Pine Island Road area on several occasions. The effective response, he said, was critical in staving off what could have been a multibuilding fire.

”I didn’t think we were going to save it,” said Shaw. ”All I could see in that house were roaring flames. Everything was against us.”

Westhampton received mutual aid from Goshen, Chesterfield, Williamsburg, Southampton and Northampton fire departments. There were no injuries.

”I’m extremely proud of our firefighters,” said Shaw. ”They got pulled out of bed at midnight. It was cold, it was icy, it was a hard fight and they saved it. They stayed up all night to contain that fire and then they got in their cars and went to work.”

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