Vince Federico was driving through Calverton with wife and young son on Saturday when they came across a sign for Prestons Pond.
The Patchogue family of three thought that might make a logical next stop for their day of recreation. But as they walked south on the trail toward the pond they sensed something was amiss.
“I thought, ‘Well that doesn’t look right,’” Mr. Federico said. “That’s a fire.”
He quickly dialed 911 to report the blaze at about 12:15 p.m.
Within 30 minutes, members of several local fire departments — notably trucks from Manorville and Ridge — were working to extinguish the rapidly spreading fire.
As of 1:30 p.m., fire department volunteers were still on scene near the intersection at Grumman Boulevard and Line Road.
After months of below average rainfall and strong sunshine, the local area is facing one of its worst droughts in recent years.
The National Weather Service is predicting more warm weather with temperatures over 80 degrees for the next couple of days.
On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office issued a press release warning residents and campers about the risk of wildfires over Labor Day weekend.
“Reckless behavior during these dry conditions can be a recipe for disaster,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I urge everyone to stay safe and be responsible while enjoying the outdoors this holiday weekend in order to prevent avoidable dangers and senseless tragedies.”
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers have recently been working to extinguish six small wildfires, including two in Suffolk County, according to the release.
As for Saturday’s fire in Calverton, Mr. Federico was first to arrive on the scene and was coincidentally driving a 1968 Dodge Power Wagon, which had once been used as a fire truck. He joked that in spite of the vehicle, he was ill-equipped to handle the brush fire himself.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have driven up in an old fire truck,” he said.
Top photo: Several fire departments responded to a brush fire Saturday afternoon in Calverton. (Credit: Grant Parpan photos and video)