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Fire Island is a barrier island located off the south shore of Long Island in New York . It measures approximately 30 miles, from Fire Island Inlet to the west and Moriches Inlet to the east. It is 1/2 mile wide at its widest point.

Perhaps the most interesting history surrounding Fire Island is that which has to do with the origin of the name Fire Island. “ Fire Island” was first used on a deed belonging to Henry Smith dated September 15, 1789. There are many theories surrounding the origin of the name but no definite answer. Here are several theories for you to mull over:

1. One possibility is that “Fire” comes from a misreading of “Five” on early maps. In 1688 there were five islands in the bay, although over the years these islands have varied in number and shape.

2. According to Madeleine C. Johnson in her book Fire Island :1650’s - 1980’s, “Some scholars believe that a misspelling of the Dutch word ‘vier,’ meaning four, as ‘fier’ was corrupted to ‘fire.’” Again, this word would have appeared on an early map of the region.

3. Some believe that actual fires led to the name. During its history, Fire Island was home to fires built by Native Americans, whaling crews, and fishing crews to signal the mainland for supplies, to guide colleagues into the bay, and to light their camps. The largest fires of all were built by whalers who would “try out” their catches (through this process they would boil down blubber into whale oil). Fires were also built by “wreckers” in an attempt to lure unsuspecting ships to shore, where they would crash and could later be plundered. Whatever the purpose of the fires, the lack of vegetation and buildings allowed smoke and fires to be seen both day and night from both the mainland and the sea.

4. The final theory is that Native Americans awarded the island its name as a reference to the burning rash that they (and many of us!) developed after coming in contact with that ever-so-hardy plant, poison ivy!

Ocean Beach is Fire Island’s largest year-round town.

The incorporated village of Ocean Beach was formed in 1921 when John A. Wilbur’s tract of land was merged with the existing Stay-A-While Estates.

The municipality of Ocean Beach elects a mayor and four trustees to govern, has its own court system, as well as police, fire, water, sewage, and maintenance departments. Ocean Beach also contains Fire Island’s only school. The first Fire Island school opened in Ocean Beach in 1918.

The first deer sightings on Fire Island occurred in the 1860’s. It is believed that the deer probably traveled over the bay when it was frozen solid.

Fire Island consists of 18 communities running east to west in the following order:

Watch Hill*
Davis Park
Water Island
Fire Island Pines
Cherry Grove
Sailor’s Haven*
Sunken Forest*
Point O’Woods
Ocean Bay Park
Ocean Beach
Corneille Estates
Fire Island Summer Club
Robbins Rest
Fair Harbor

* These are Fire Island National Seashore entities. There are no private residences in these areas.

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