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Chief on Dory blaze: ‘The guys worked hard and got it done’

More information has emerged concerning the fire that broke out at The Dory on Bridge Street early Monday evening.

A Shelter Island Police Officer noticed smoke billowing out of the bar/restaurant and phoned in the emergency call at 6:13 p.m., not long after the fire had started. “If he hadn’t been passing by and called it in, it could have been a lot worse,” said Shelter Island Fire Department First Assistant Chief Antony Reiter.

The chief said the Department had at least 30 firefighters on the scene in about five minutes. Greenport Fire Department was called in as backup and dispatched 12 firefighters.

Teaming up to fight the fire. (Credit: Courtesy Photo)

There were no injuries. Dory owner Jack Kiffer said there were about 10 to 15 patrons at the bar, and all exited safely. Three firefighters experienced “excessive heat,” the chief said. “An 80-degree day on a main street with black top, and an interior fire will do that. We have a procedure for rehab and got them hydrated and into air-conditioning. They’re O.K.”

According to Shelter Island Police Department Det. Sgt. Jack Thilberg, an investigation determined that the fire started in an attic space above the kitchen, which housed compressors, condenser units and fans for a freezer and other appliances. There was an unspecified “electrical event” or malfunction there, Det. Sgt. Thilberg said. “The fire investigation has been classified as accidental and not criminal.”

Chief Reiter said, “It’s an old building and the ceiling has lots of open space. It went straight up.”

The firefighters went in through the front door and ran into walls of smoke. It was fortunate that “many of the guys know The Dory,” the chief said.  “Some better than others,” he added with a laugh, “and knew the ins and outs of the building. We proceeded to have an aggressive interior attack.”

Taking a breather,(Credit: Megan Hergrueter )

Firefighters climbed ladders to the roof and cut holes to be able to attack the blaze from the top down. In half an hour to 45 minutes, the building was secure, the chief said. “There’s a lot of damage. The kitchen’s gone.”

Mr. Kiffer was on the scene with the firefighters. He was attending a Fire Commissioners meeting at the Heights firehouse when the alarm sounded. He and the commissioners were about to go to dinner, he said.

Mr. Kiffer took over the legendary Island watering hole in 2004 and is the fifth owner of the place, which was built in 1925. On the market for several months, Mr. Kiffer said The Dory has been sold, but wouldn’t reveal to whom. “That’s up to them,” he said, referring to the new owners.

A source close to the buyers said the deal was expected to close on Aug. 15, and that they were “helping Jack” and looking forward to restoring The Dory and reopening it.

For now, Mr. Kiffer was getting over the shock of seeing the damage done to The Dory. He plans to leave the Island and move to Florida. “Everything’s up in the air,” Mr. Kiffer said.

Jack Kiffer, right, owner of The Dory, at the scene Monday evening. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

A quick response and teamwork by the volunteers most likely saved other businesses on Bridge Street. “The guys worked hard and got it done,” he chief said.