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Wildfires Erupt In Manorville: Another Long Day For Volunteer Fire Fighters

Originally Posted: May 01, 2012

Photo from last week's fires that consumed more than 1,000 acres in the Pine Barrens region. (Denis G. Yuen)

Manorville - Wildfires erupted in the Manorville area at approximately 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, and with the quick response of more than 30 local volunteer fire departments who arrived on the scene, the fires were finally extinguished.

With flames shooting 20 feet in the area, these fires were very close to property lines for private homes. The wildfires began just north of Mike's Christmas Tree Farm, near the intersection of North Street and Weeks Avenu, and seriously threatened a row of houses, according to Westhampton Beach Fire Chief John "Chip" Bancroft.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone stated from the scene, "We have reached out to the state, and New York Forest Rangers [are] working the fire, as well as the arson squads."

Bellone went to explain, "Basically we are doing the same drill as we went through last week, and we are making progress but we want to be very cautious."

The fires were finally extinguished, allowing exhausted fire fighters to finally get some well deserved rest.

According to Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine, he has introduced legislation directing the well drilling unit of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to drill fire suppression wells on county parkland in the Pine Barrens.

During last week's massive wildfire in Manorville, access to water was limited because of the scarcity of fire hydrants in the area. While several tanker trucks were on scene, additional water access would have been beneficial to the departments fighting the blaze.

The county's well drilling unit has the resources and equipment to install wells up to eight inches in diameter and capable of producing up to 400 gallons per minute. Depending on the depth to ground water, several pump system designs are possible. In addition, the unit would be available during a fire to drop wells on a moment's notice. The installation of two six-inch diameter wells less than 100 feet is possible in one day with proper support. These wells could provide water in the immediately threatened area, greatly reducing the response times.

Fire wells and draft lines from lakes and other water sources are not uncommon in other less populated regions of the country, but are rare on Long Island. The nearest well source available to first responders to the first Manorville fire was miles away.

"Our volunteers led by Elio Zapparrata and the Manorville Fire Department, did a tremendous job at fighting these fires," said Legislator Romaine. "However, the lack of water in the Pine Barrens continues to be a major concern. With little development and even fewer water mains, water is a scarce resource. "The events of the past two weeks highlight the need for additional fire wells in this area."

"The events of the past two weeks highlight the need for additional fire wells in this area without spending millions on new, unnecessary, public water mains," Romaine added.

The resolution also permits the county to seek access agreements with other municipalities and landowners to secure additional well locations.

The resolution will formally be introduced on Tuesday, April 24. From there it will go to committee and if approved, would be eligible for a vote of the entire County Legislature on May 8.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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