It's rare for a street mailbox to be blown up, but that's when the U.S. Postal Service goes into action.

Three Nassau County men were arraigned Tuesday on felony charges they used fireworks to blow up mailboxes, including a postal street box in Elmont.

In such cases, the service starts piecing together damaged letters to see who should get them, an agency spokeswoman said.

Whole letters are sent on, but damaged ones are examined by the U. S. Postal Inspection Service, the agency's law enforcement arm, spokeswoman Connie Chirichello said. Not just any postal employee can go through these letters. This is a job only for postal inspectors, who are armed and go through the inspection service academy.

"Only postal officials would be able to handle such an incident," Chirichello said.

They first look for an address to return to sender and that may mean opening up the letter if the address on the envelope is missing or unreadable, she said. Sometimes, a check inside the envelope will have an address for the postal inspectors, she said.

"They would return it with a letter letting the customer know that because of a mailbox incident, the mail is being returned," Chirichello said.

The agency would include a letter advising customers to use the post office letter as an explanation for late payment or other problems related to the delay.

In certain cases, the contents of the letter will decide who can be trusted to get the damaged mail, she said. For example, she said, "If it was a birth certificate, it would be returned back to the courts. If it were a billing statement, it would be . . . returned back to them."

The local post offices would work with postal inspectors to return mail, Chirichello said.

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Anyone who dropped off mail at the damaged street mailbox on Madison and Cross streets in Elmont may call the postal service at 800-ASK-USPS or the local post office.