On the morning of Monday, Dec. 24—Christmas Eve—a fire broke out in the boiler room of the visitor’s center at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. About 100 volunteers from at least six local fire departments responded to the blaze, which was first reported just before 9 a.m. and contained within an hour, according to officials.
“Upon my arrival, I noticed heavy smoke pushing from the roof of the building and some flames coming out of the plumbing vents,” said Vincent Bellissimo, assistant chief of the Oyster Bay Fire Co. No. 1, which was the among the first departments on the scene, along with the Atlantic Steamer Fire Co. No. 1.
He said further investigation showed that the fire started in the boiler area inside the bathrooms and spread throughout the visitor center. No suspicious activity is suspected, as he said the boiler had set the alarm off on several recent occasions.
The fire was contained with the assistance of the East Norwich, Locust Valley, Bayville, Glenwood Landing, Syosset and Jericho fire departments
At the time of the fire, the center was closed and no injuries were reported. Still, the fire gutted the building, a non-historic building built in 1950 that sits adjacent to the historic chicken coop and carriage house and down the hill from the former home of the 26th President Theodore Roosevelt. No other buildings were damaged.
The site has been officially closed since Saturday, Dec. 22, due to the federal government shutdown, according to statements posted on the website and Facebook page. During the shutdown, the grounds of Sagamore Hill will remain open, but all buildings will be closed. This means there will be no visitor services, including tours of the historic home, public information, restrooms, trash collection and facilities and roads maintenance (including plowing if applicable). All park programs have been canceled. In case of emergency, visitors to the park should call 911. For updates on the shutdown, visit www.doi.gov/shutdown.
Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine toured the damage later in the week and said in a Facebook post, “My New Year’s resolution is to assist in any and every way reconstruction or repair of the visitor center.”