WESTHAMPTON BEACH

Destructive co-op fire ruled not suspicious

A fire that destroyed an oceanfront co-op complex on Wednesday has been deemed not suspicious, police said yesterday.

Village police and the Southampton Town fire marshal's office finished combing through the charred debris of The Sandpiper yesterday, Police Chief Trevor Gonce said. He declined to provide any preliminary findings: "We don't have a definitive cause at the moment."

Investigators are preparing their report and the cause may be released today, Gonce said.

More than 75 firefighters from at least eight departments tried to contain the blaze that was reported about 3 p.m. Wednesday at the oceanfront complex on Dune Road.

Village Mayor Maria Moore said The Sandpiper had not yet opened for the season and only maintenance workers were on the property.

Police said no injuries were reported. Photos from the scene showed the fire engulfing most of the structure.

The town fire marshal's office could not be reached yesterday.

 

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ISLANDWIDE

Crews arrive to fight southern pine beetle

Crews from the Northeast and Canada came to Long Island this week to help officials determine how much state and county lands have been affected by a damaging beetle that targets pine forests.

The forest health specialists from New Hampshire, Maine and Nova Scotia will be joined by another group of specialists next week to help survey the extent of the southern pine beetle on Long Island, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The beetle, native to the southern United States and first confirmed on Long Island last year, has decimated thousands of acres of forests in the nation. It has been found in several areas in Suffolk.

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The insect prefers pine trees, including the pitch pines that make up most of Long Island's pine barrens. It overwhelms a tree through sheer numbers, killing it before moving on to the next tree.

A southern pine beetle infestation can be halted by cutting down infested trees and thinning nearby forests, DEC officials said in a statement.

The crews are assessing Long Island as part of the Northeast Forest Fire Compact and with funding from the U.S. Forest Service.

 

LONG BEACH

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Race, projects to aid Sandy recovery work

Long Beach officials, HGTV and the Surfrider Foundation will hold a community 5-kilometer race, and rebuilding and cleanup projects, tomorrow for victims of superstorm Sandy.

The "Race2Rebuild" for runners and cyclists is scheduled to start at 7 a.m. at the Long Beach Catholic Regional School Yard, 735 W. Broadway. A community breakfast and resources expo with the Long Island Long Term Recovery Group is set after the race.

Volunteers at the event also are rebuilding two homes for families whose houses were destroyed by Sandy. Paint and finishing work is to be coordinated by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and other charitable organizations. Volunteers will also join cleanup efforts at beaches and canals in an effort coordinated by the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit environmental group working to protect waterways. The city is also organizing a West End dune and debris cleanup.

For more information, go to race2rebuild.org.

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AMITYVILLE

Tree planting set to mark Earth Day

A group of Long Island nonprofits will celebrate Earth Day with a tree planting in Amityville on Wednesday, and the public is invited to join.

The groups include Master Shift, a meditation group; Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, which provides services for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities; Changing Hands, a group that offers volunteer opportunities for people with special needs; and Homecoming Farm, an organic farm and ministry of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville.

The planting event is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at 555 Albany Ave. Contact Marie Cantone, Changing Hands executive director, at 631-433-0656.