The massive wildfire that torched more than 1,100 acres of Long Island Pine Barrens in April was intentionally set, according to Suffolk County police, who have offered a reward for information about the person or people who started the fire.
The fire began on the north side of the Brookhaven National Laboratory property about 2:30 p.m. April 9, and quickly spread through the surrounding forest, eventually finding its way into residential areas in Manorville south of Calverton thanks to dry conditions and high winds, authorities said.
Dozens of fire departments from across Long Island were called to fight the blaze, the seventh-largest in state history, which raged for more than 24 hours, destroyed buildings and property, and forced the evacuations of many Manorville residents from their homes.
An official at the Suffolk County Arson Squad said detectives had exhausted their leads in the case and were asking for the public’s help. Though the fire was “intentionally set,” meaning that the person could have “lit a cigarette” and accidentally caused the wildfire, officials said they believe the fire may have been arson, which means someone started the fire with the intent of causing damage.
“If that’s true then I think … it’s disturbing to think someone would do that intentionally, especially since so many firefighters risked their lives and safety [to fight the fire],” said Jamesport Second Assistant Chief John Andrejack, who added that whoever started the fire should come forward.
Riverhead fire officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
In May, the state Department of Environmental Conservation deemed the fire set by man, according to a Newsday report, but Suffolk County Arson Squad officials said at the time it was too early to say whether the wildfire was intentionally set.
Police have offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.