Suffolk County firefighters had a massive brush fire in Ridge and Manorville nearly under control as of Tuesday morning, although aircraft were set to drop water on the lingering hot spots that burned through the night.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that we will be able to get this fire under control and wrap up operations today,” said County Executive Steve Bellone, who declared a state of emergency. Mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect in parts of Brookhaven and Riverhead townships, he said.
More than 100 fire departments from as far west as Nassau County responded to the blaze, which broke out at around 2:30 p.m. Monday. Three firefighters were injured while battling the flames, including one that is recovering from serious burns. More than 1,000 acres of woods on the East End were engulfed.
Three homes were destroyed in the fire—and countless more were threatened by the inferno. Five people stayed in a Red Cross shelter in Aquabogue, officials said.
A Red Flag Warning is still in effect Tuesday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., the National Weather Service said. This is due to the dry conditions and gusty west winds that are forecast to be as high as 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. Any fires that start may quickly spread, forecasters warn.
According to the NWS, the lowest relative humidity and strongest winds will be in the afternoon, when fire growth potential will be at its highest.
Brookhaven National Lab officials said there was no damage or disruption to and the U.S. Department of Energy-run facilities after the fire burned 300 acres of woodlands on the northeast portion of the lab’s property.
Bellone said Suffolk County police Arson Squad detectives are investigating the cause of the fire. The cost of the damage has yet to be determined.