When West Sayville firefighters rolled up to a sprawling Manorville home during the height of the wildfire Monday, flames were shooting more than 75 feet high, roaring like a freight train on track to hit the house.
The volunteers, joined by colleagues from Quogue and Middle Island, mobilized on Paul Dill's property with about 1,500 gallons of water between them, West Sayville Fire Chief Joe Schroeder said Wednesday.
It didn't take long before they ran out of water while trying to stave off the flames. So the volunteers used a most convenient resource: water from the backyard pool, which holds 55,000 gallons.
While it wasn't enough to save a pool house, it did prevent the home's loss.
"If it weren't for that water in the pool, we would not be in the position to fight that fire at the house," Schroeder said.
Quogue Fire Department Chief Chris Osborne and Schroeder recalled how they used pool water to fight the Sunrise fires in 1995.
"Honestly, that's a trick we remember," Osborne said.
With the fire advancing and their onboard water having run out, Schroeder and his crew drew back the pool cover, inserted their hoses, and filled Quogue's pumper.
"We drew about three feet of water from that pool," he said.
The crew of 18 to 20 firefighters arrived 10 minutes before Dill's wife, Margaret, and her mother evacuated the house with the couple's three dogs, leaving the home open so the firefighters could access it.
Three to five minutes later, the head of the fire approached the property.
"We could feel the heat as soon as we pulled up to the driveway," Middle Island volunteer Matthew Olsen said.
The pool house didn't stand much of a chance.
"We tried to protect it but it was too much fire," Olsen said.
Paul Dill, 71, was grateful his home is intact -- even if it is minus the pool house.
"I thought that was great," he said of the volunteers' ingenuity. "I mean, it was good thinking on their part. . . . All the thanks in the world, that's for sure."