Fire officials: Manorville wildfire has been extinguished

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo shakes hands with a Ridge firefighter in Calverton Tuesday afternoon.

The Brookhaven brushfire that claimed more than 1,000 acres and nine properties over the past 24-plus hours has been extinguished, Manorville firefighters confirmed Tuesday night.

Local fire departments were called off the scene late Tuesday, though officials did not confirm when the fire was put out. Volunteers had spent the day containing the blaze and battling smaller flare ups in the area.

The evacuation order for Manorville residents south of Route 25, east of Wading River Manor Road and west of Edwards Avenue was lifted about 6:30 p.m. and the Long Island Power Authority restored power to the area, officials said.

Riverhead police have also “increased patrols in that area” to look out for further flare ups, said Riverhead Lt. David Lessard.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone expressed optimism that the fire would be extinguished at a media briefing in Calverton Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Bellone said earlier Tuesday that three homes and one commercial structure were destroyed in the fire, which began at Brookhaven National Laboratory Monday afternoon and spread southeast with several small fires popping up along the trail. About 1,000 acres burned, he said.

The Town of Riverhead announced Tuesday it would expedite any permits needed for homeowners who suffered damage in the fire. Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said the town’s Building Department has already begun to visit victims’ homes.

“[If anybody submits a permit from the area] we’ll put it to the top of the pile,” Mr. Walter said. He also said the town will look into other forms of disaster relief, including potentially waiving permit fees.

Most of the structures damaged in the fire were in Riverhead Town, Mr. Walter said.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A state helicopter transports water and drops it on hot spots Tuesday morning.

Rescue workers began dropping buckets of water from helicopters Tuesday morning to prevent the fire from spreading.

By Tuesday morning three fires remained, including two west of Shultz Road and one on Mill Road in Manorville, officials said. Mr Bellone said Tuesday afternoon that while those fires had been put out, firefighters continued to battle small flare ups.

Mr. Cuomo said that if not for the efforts of local volunteer firefighters “it could have been worse.”

The fire started on an undeveloped part of Brookhaven National Laboratory, in the lab’s northeast corner, according to Michael Bebon, deputy director for operations. He said no structures were damaged at the Lab and no Lab operations were interrupted.

Jerome Hauer, state Commissioner of Homeland Security, commended the quick response of thousands of volunteers Monday in attacking the fire.

“It was certainly a significant brush fire,” he said. “It’s because of their quick action that it has not grown further.”

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at Tuesday's press conference in Manorville.

Mr. Bellone commended Manorville fire chief Elio Zapparata, who was in a dentist’s chair when he got word of the fire and told the dentist to just pull the tooth out so he could go.

The Manorville Fire Department lost one truck in the fire, and a firefighter who was on that truck suffered burns and was taken to the Stony Brook University Medical Center.

Mr. Bellone said Tuesday morning that the firefighter, William Hille, 35, was “doing well and is in good spirits.”

A hospital spokesperson said Mr. Hille was likely going to be discharged Tuesday night.

Manorville firefighter Andrew Preli said the fire was like nothing he’s ever seen in his three years of volunteer service.

“I’ve been on a bunch of brush fires,” he said. “Nothing this crazy, nothing this big.

“It sounded like a train coming through. Everywhere I looked something was on fire.”

About 35 fire departments were still fighting the fire Tuesday afternoon, and more than 100 were on scene Monday, Mr. Bellone said.

The American Red Cross also was at the scene, operating an emergency shelter at the Riverhead Town senior citizen center in Aquebogue, according to John Miller, their Suffolk County director. He said 14 people used the shelter Monday and about four remained there Tuesday.

American Red Cross volunteers also brought “thousands of water bottles” and meals to fire fighters, he said.

“Most of all, I want to thank our volunteer fire fighters, who have been out here non-stop, fighting this fire since yesterday afternoon, and they are still out there working hard,” Mr. Bellone said Tuesday morning. “They have been inspirational in what they have done.”

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons from the wildfires of 1995 and post 9-11 about how we communicate and coordinate,” he added. “And this effort here has been a perfect example of the importance of that coordination and effectiveness of the lessons learned.”

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