Firefighters Battle Brush Fires Throughout Tri-State

Fire on Long Island is worst since 1995 wildfires, official says

Brush fires fanned by gusty winds raged throughout the tri-state on Monday, with one blaze injuring firefighters and destroying buildings as it swept through a swath of Long Island's Suffolk County.

What started as two separate brush fires in Ridge and Manorville on Long Island merged into one large fire by evening, officials said. Wind gusts of up to 45 mph and dry conditions throughout the region helped spread the flames.

The massive fire was contained on three sides by early Tuesday, but the eastern side raged on. The National Guard was on standby, a spokeswoman for the Suffolk County Executive's office said.

"The fire is not under control. It's burning heavily," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said at a brief news conference Tuesday morning. "We're putting as much water on it as we can."

Bellone also noted the flames had not spread overnight.

Three firefighters were taken to Stony Brook University Hospital's burn center with injuries after a fire truck became caught in a fire in Ridge. Two were released, and a third was admitted with first- and second-degree burns, officials said.

Bellone said he visited with the firefighter who was injured and described him as being "in great spirits."

In Manorville, at least two homes and a commercial building were destroyed after being engulfed by the flames. Two others were damaged.

No residents were reported injured.

Bellone said all fire departments in Suffolk County were called to action, and fire departments in neighboring Nassau County have been assisting.

The fire could burn for days, but the area in which it is burning is not densely populated by homes, said Steve Gray of the Ridge Fire Department.

"We're hoping when the winds die down, we can get a better handle on this fire," said Gray.

Colette Grosso, of Shoreham, told NBC New York that she had a clear view of the fire from her house.

"It's very scary ... we can hear the fire trucks coming from all over the place," she said.

Riverhead Police on Monday evening ordered a mandatory evacuation for part of the township, which includes the communities of Ridge and Manorville. The boundaries of the evacuated areas were from Grumman Boulevard south to the Peconic River and from Wading River Manor Road and Shultz Road east to Edwards Avenue.

The evacuation was still in effect Tuesday.

The Riverhead Senior Center at 60 Shade Tree Lane was established as an emergency shelter for the area.

Patti Purcell's and her family were not required to leave, but they packed important documents and belongings into their minivan as a precaution.

"We're ready to go, and if it starts up again, we're definitely out of here," said Purcell. 

The burning land on Long Island included hundreds of acres at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory. The lab spans a 5,265-acre site in the Pine Barrens region of Long Island. No lab buildings were reported damaged.

More than 200 homes were without power, officials said.

It was the most serious fire Suffolk County has experienced since the 1995 wildfires, Bellone said.

Much of the rest of the tri-state is under a fire weather warning because of the high winds and dry conditions.

A major brush fire engulfed several hundred acres in southern New Jersey, while another fire was burning in the Palisades Park System north of Tomkins Cove in Rockland County. Fire crews are hoping the brush fire will be completely under control by the end of the week at the latest.

On Staten Island, a brush fire went to five alarms Monday afternoon and was spread over 19 acres. Smoke could be seen from miles away as hundreds of firefighters worked on the blaze.

Fire officials said the blaze was contained by 4:45 a.m. Tuesday, meaning there is no visible fire and no further threat.

The Staten Island fire was on Sanitation Department property at the former Fresh Kills landfill, and was burning mostly on compost piles, officials said.

The FDNY said three firefighters suffered minor injuries; no homes or businesses were affected.

Firefighters also tackled a separate brush fire on the borough's east shore, in the Gateway National Recreation Area.

In Milford, Conn., a brush fire near railroad tracks off Route 1 affected Metro-North service for part of Monday evening.

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