Brush fire breaks out on Wading River bluff

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07/18/2011 11:59 PM |

A brush fire broke out Monday afternoon near a bluff at Wading River Town Beach, and the emergency response drew criticism from at least one area resident who accused firefighters of wrongfully breaking down his fence, officials and the resident said.

Chief Kevin McQueeny of the Wading River Fire Department said firefighters responded shortly after 1:30 p.m. and battled the blaze — which stretched about 200 feet east of the beach and north of the Little Flower facility — for nearly three hours. No injuries were reported.

The fire originated from a campfire that wasn’t properly extinguished Sunday night, Chief McQueeny said. Due to the recent dry weather, fire fighters took time to wet the surrounding area, he said.

The Wading River Fire Department was the only department to respond.

“The firefighters did an excellent job getting the fire under control,” Chief McQueeny said.

But he said response time was hindered because two Oak Street property owners have a fence blocking emergency access on the beach. After the fire, the fence was removed in order for emergency vehicles to vacate the area, he said.

One of those residents is Jim Csorny, a retired New York City firefighter who described the removal as a “cowardly act.”

“In my opinion, they are abusing their authority,” he said, adding he captured the ordeal on video. “There was no emergency at that point.”

The fences and have been the subject of an ongoing dispute between Riverhead Town and the property owners, some of whom filed a federal property rights lawsuit against the town, claiming the town has refused to enforce trespassing laws on their property because it believes the land is publicly owned.

Mr. Csorny said the fence, known as a “sand fence,” is there to stop people driving on his grass, where he hopes regrowth will occur to help with erosion.

Chief McQueeny said the fence is causing safety issues.

“We had to break down the fence in order to get out,” Chief McQueeny said, adding emergency vehicles had gotten stuck driving close to the shoreline.

jennifer@northshoresun.com