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Wildfire panel reviews wells to aid firefighters
Suffolk County and the Central Pine Barrens Commission are studying whether to drill wells on some of its parkland to better aid firefighters in need of water.
The move comes after two fires hit the pine barrens region of Manorville and Ridge in April, burning more than 1,200 acres. In one case, firefighters used water from a pool to beat back flames.
The commission’s Wildfire Task Force is reviewing the best locations for the wells. And the legislature on Tuesday approved a bill to authorize county fire, parks and health officials to study the issue and drill wells where suitable.
“When we fight fires in the pine barrens, there are no water mains,” said Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who sponsored the bill. “Firefighters have to wait with their pumper trucks until the fire burns out to the road.”
County spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said the task force is evaluating placing wells in Flanders, Riverhead and Manorville.
“We appreciate the legislative support for our ongoing efforts in siting fire wells in Suffolk County,” she said.
With five or six strategically placed wells, firefighters could drive farther into the woods, and using a hose and generator pump out water, officials said.
The hope is for the county to provide equipment and manpower to drill the wells, while the commission could help with funding, said Riverhead Supervisor Sean M. Walter.
The commission — members include the Riverhead, Brookhaven and Southampton town supervisors, the county and the state Department of Environmental Conservation — also is looking at other ways to address water needs, including extending public water supply lines, commission executive director John Pavacic said.
“None of this has coalesced yet into a comprehensive plan for increasing water supply in the pine barrens,” he said.
Above: A firefighter battles a blaze in Manorville off Wading River Road as a large brush fire spread across eastern Long Island. (April 9, 2012)