NORWALK — A windswept fire on one of the Norwalk Islands late Friday afternoon burned a building down to its foundation and touched off brush fires that firefighters anticipated would take all night to extinguish, if they could reach them.
At 5:38 p.m., a man on a boat reported seeing flames on Chimon Island and said a group of youths who had been on the island were leaving on a boat.
Marine police initially transported eight firefighters carrying bundles of hose line and a portable pump to the island, but it was soon apparent that brush fires touched off by flying embers from the initial blaze were going to require more manpower and equipment.
A strong, steady wind kicked up flames from the smoldering debris of the destroyed building, which had a square-shaped, stone and concrete foundation measuring about 30 feet by 25 feet. The only recognizable feature of the building was a brick fireplace and chimney.
After fighting his way through thick brush and then returning to the site of the original fire, Capt. E. Scott Ready reported there were pockets of trees and other vegetation burning in numerous locations hundreds of feet from the burned building. Ready said it was impractical to pull hose lines that deep into the brush, and requested Indian tanks be brought to the island.
Indian tanks are tanks of water firefighters strap on their backs that have an attached hose and are activated by pushing a hand pump.
By 8 p.m., the fire department began planning to transport additional firefighters and equipment to the island, including hand saws and portable lights.
Deputy Fire Marshal John F. McGuirk Jr. also arrived at the island to investigate the cause of the fire.
Marine officers used two boats to shuttle men and equipment to the island, and Fire Department put a boat in the water it inherited from the police and was still refurbishing.
Fire Lt. John Maggio, who was operating the boat, said it was still several weeks from being ready to officially put into service. He said a fire pump with bow monitor is to be installed on it next week.
None of the police or fire officials on scene knew about the building that burned. There is at least one other building on the island.
The eastern half of the island is a National Wildlife Refuge closed to public access.
Commander of the Marine Division Sgt. Peter Lapak said the public can only go on the island up to the high water mark.
Lapak said the boater who reported the fire said six to eight white males in their late teens left the island on a boat towing a yellow, inflatable raft.
Lapak said the boater heard one of them say, "We'd better get out of here."
Lapak said their boat may have been a Grady White with a "bow rider" hull, 21 to 22 feet long.
At around 11 p.m., Lapak said both marine police boats had secured for the night, and several companies of firefighters planned to spend the night on the island.