Update 1/29: Riverhead firefighters were called to the scene of two dumpster fires on Commerce Drive early Tuesday morning, bringing the total up to eight over the past four days, police said.
A man called Riverhead police about 4:30 a.m. to report the latest fires burning in two dumpsters behind the Harley Davidson property on east and north side of building, police said. Riverhead firefighters arrived on the scene and put out the fires, police said.
The two dumpster fires Tuesday marked the eight dumpster fire in the past four days. Fire officials and police said they have opened an investigation into the fires.
The first dumpster fire occurred about 3 p.m. Saturday at the behind the Fairfield Apartment complex just north of Route 58 in a dumpster in the southwest corner of the property, authorities said.
The second fire was in a dumpster near TJ Maxx on Route 58 about 7:30 p.m. Saturday, with the third fire occurring at 11 a.m. Sunday in a dumpster near the Toy R Us on Route 58, police said.
The fourth dumpster fire occurred about 5:30 p.m. Sunday at a dumpster just a few hundred feet from the site of the first fire behind the same apartment complex on Roanoke Avenue, authorities said.
Firefighters were on the scene of a fifth dumpster fire about 7 a.m. Monday morning at the Fairfield apartment complex. Later that day another dumpster behind the TJ Maxx on Route 58 was set on fire about 4 p.m.
Over the weekend, five dumpster fires were reported in Southampton Town. It is not clear if the incidents are related.
Officials said the fires are being intentionally set and are putting lives at risk by diverting firefighters’ attention from other emergencies.
“Anytime you put fire personnel on the road, that’s when the danger goes up for someone getting hurt,” said second assistant fire chief Kevin Brooks.
The arsons are also forcing firefighters to focus their attention on the blazes instead of preparing themselves or being available for larger emergencies if they occur, he said.
“We’re utilizing resources for an arson, and we have plenty of resources, but if we’re responding to this we can’t respond to a house fire or if someone is trapped in a real emergency,” Mr. Brooks said.
Tuesday morning’s fire is the eighth garbage container fire in the past two days within a half mile of each other, police said.
Riverhead Fire Marshal David Andruszkiewicz said the fires are under investigation.
He agreed with Mr. Brooks, saying the incidents across town are costing time and money as firefighters are called to the scenes to put out the blazes.
More importantly, the fires would stress volunteers if other more serious fires or emergencies occurred while they were putting out the dumpster fire.
“Lives are at risk,” Mr. Andruszkiewicz said Sunday.
Anyone with information about the fires is encouraged to call the Riverhead Fire Marshal’s office at 727-3200 x601.