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High winds spark blaze, power outages on Long Island

Fierce wind knocked down a large pine tree

Fierce wind knocked down a large pine tree in North Babylon. The tree brought electrical wires with it, causing a vehicle to catch fire. Credit: James Carbone

High winds knocked out power to more than 17,000 Long Island homes and businesses Tuesday, and caused at least one frustrating blaze for firefighters in North Babylon when a downed high power line ignited a parked pickup truck.

No one was injured in the truck fire, but firefighters stood helpless for several hours while the truck burned, waiting for LIPA workers who were answering calls throughout Long Island before getting to that location.

"A tree was knocked down from the high winds, and it took down a high tension wire from between the poles," said North Babylon Fire Department Assistant Chief George Folise. ". . . We couldn't do anything until the power was cut by LIPA, and it took quite a while for them to show up. Unfortunately, the car was a loss."

Linda Schwantner, a LIPA spokeswoman, said Tuesday night that a total of 17,574 customers had outages at some point, with the peak coming at 8 a.m., but by 7 p.m., all but 376 had their power restored.

Vanessa Baird-Streeter, LIPA's communications director, said in a statement: "While our crews did a great job responding to outages in extreme weather conditions, we are not satisfied with response concerning the North Babylon incident and thus will be reviewing the matter with National Grid tomorrow."

The truck fire on Wickfield Lane, near Christmas Street, was reported at about 8:55 a.m., Folise said. Suffolk police said they made calls to LIPA at 8:55 a.m., 9:55 a.m., 10:15 a.m. and 10:50 a.m. asking that the power be cut, but that didn't happen until about noon, Folise said.

"The tar in the street was actually bubbling," Folise said. "That's how much juice was coming from those wires. . . . Once they cut the power, we were in and out of there in another half-hour."

Suffolk and Nassau police reported numerous downed power lines.

Folise said he is not sure why it took LIPA so long to cut the power. "We're in the process of trying to find out."


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