If they weren't already, firemen are now the most popular guys on Fire Island.
After the Monday night fire that ripped through the Pines and destroyed beloved institutions like the Pavilion and Sip N' Twirl, hundreds of the hose-toting heroes swarmed the area to make sure that no more of the highly-flammable Fire Island real estate was lost. Thanks to their efforts, there were no injuries and damage to the buildings on island wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.
Still, rumors about what happened and, more importantly, what the future will hold started circulating almost immediately. Speculation about what would become of the beloved summer getaway ran rampant.
Before the gossip mill could move into high gear, though, we got on the phone with Seth Weissman, one of the owners of the Pines, to find out what's really happening now that it's time for the rebuilding to begin.
Out: Now that there have been a few days for the dust to settle, what's your thinking about the situation at the Pines?
The three partners that own the Pines are really passionate about the community. The first couple of days were the most daunting, but at this point we are moving full speed ahead to figure out what it takes to build and what we want.
When we started this project, one question we had was what does the pines mean to the gay community and how is the different from what it meant in the past. It used to be a place of gay refuge from discrimination, but as we decided what things we wanted to tweak and change and what traditions we wanted to preserve, we see this as an opportunity to fully realize that vision. We're in good spirits and look forward to making the most of an otherwise trying situation.
And as far as the physical damage goes?
Upon hearing the news, we were grateful no one was hurt. There were over 400 firefighters that reported to the fire and they did a tremendous job. While it was very difficult to see those buildings collapse and ultimately be razed, people really rallied together. A lot of memories were made and a lot of relationships started in those two buildings but ultimately those were buildings and we'll build new ones. Still, the Pines will continue--it's just that my winter is going to look a little bit different than I thought it would.
I wasn't planning on having to rebuild a couple buildings. We've been in the process of renovating and making changes and figuring out what we'll add for 2012.
Now that you do have that space to rebuild, what are you thinking about doing with it? We have some ideas and we've spent a lot of time hosting dinners with members of the community to hear from them what they want. There was sentiment for the old Pavilion and we're going to spend some time understanding what the community wants and what's possible for zoning. It's an opportunity to step back and see what was working and what wasn't. It's still just Friday.
Do you expect things to be back on track for summer 2012?
We'll definitely be open. Most of our properties are fine. The pool area and part of Canteen were badly damaged, but I'm confident. We're going to do our best, but there are a lot of third party things that will have to break our way. We'll definitely be open, but I can't answer that question at this point.
Has it been determined yet how the fire started?
I don't know that they've put out a statement, but the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association sent out an email saying that they believed it was an electrical fire in the La Fountaine building that spread, but I don't know if that's confirmed or not.
We've been incredibly touched by the support we've received. I've received no fewer than 1,000 emails, Facebook messages and phone calls in the past 72 hours. It's really people rally behind us and the community. That's what will push everything forward.