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Wildfire burns thousands of acres, injures three firefighters

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One Manorville volunteer firefighter was seriously injured when the brush truck he was in got caught up in the fire. He was admitted to the burn center at Stony Brook University hospital. Two other Manorville firefighters on that truck were treated and released, emergency officials said.

The biggest fire incident in Suffolk County since the “Sunrise Fire” that burned 7,000 acres of Pine Barrens in 1995 started as two separate fires, one in Ridge and one in Manorville, according to Ridge Fire Department First Assistant Chief Steve Grey. The two fires combined into one big wildfire that burned for hours before being brought under control Monday night. It was fueled by unusually dry ground and air and strong gusty winds — conditions that prompted the National Weather Service this morning to issue a “Red Flag Warning” here for the second time in 72 hours.

The Ridge fire started on the grounds of Brookhaven National Laboratory at about 2:30 Monday afternoon. The second fire started in Manorville. The two combined to threaten homes and businesses, forcing he evacuation of the area between the Peconic River and Grumman Boulevard from Wading River-Manor Road to Edwards Avenue, according to Riverhead Police Lt. David Lessard.

Riverhead firefighters Monday afternoon battled a third fire inside the fence at the Calverton Enterprise Park, the former site of Grumman Aerospace in Calverton.

People were ordered to evacuate their homes and businesses from the town line at the Peconic River north to Grumman Boulevard and from Wading River-Manor Road east to Edwards Avenue, according to Riverhead Police Lt. David Lessard.

A residence, a barn, several out-buildings and several cars were destroyed by the wildfire in an around the vicinity of Oakwood Drive in Manorville. Residents escaped injury, as did the horses in the barn, according to emergency workers.

“I lucked out. I was one of the lucky ones,” said Oakwood Drive resident Ray Kreiger as he walked along Oakwood Drive thanking volunteer firefighters for the work they did.

Another Oakwood Drive resident, Anthony Panarello, said flames camer within about 20 feet of his home, but the firefighters stopped them.

“The firemen did a great job,” Panarello said.

Riverhead Town opened a shelter at its Senior and Human Resource Center in Aquebogue for residents forced to evacuate their homes.

Suffolk SPCA placed its mobile hospital trailer at the Aquebogue center to house pets from evacuated homes.

Firefighters from dozens of departments are still on scene as of 10 pm, and some will likely remain overnight to deal with hot spots and flare-ups, but the fire was brought under control by about 8 p.m.

Dry grasses and brush, dry air and strong, gusty winds combined to create the perfect conditions for the spread of wildfires, according to the National Weather Service, which posted a “Red Flag Warning” for wildfire risk early Monday morning, the second such warning for Long Island in 72 hours.

RiverheadLOCAL photos by Peter Blasl