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Stubborn bog fire mostly contained at Kings Point Park

Firefighters from the Baldwin Fire Department dig up

Firefighters from the Baldwin Fire Department dig up and extinguish hot spots as fire departments from around the Island contain a fire in Kings Point Park, in Kings Point. (Nov. 16, 2013) Credit: Steve Pfost

A stubborn fire in a dry peat bog in Kings Point Park was finally close to being extinguished Sunday night after it burned for several days and as deep as 6 feet underground, officials said.

Firefighters believed they had put out the 21/2 acre fire by dusk but a fire hose pumping water into the smoldering, wooded brush would be left on to "wet down the area overnight," said Nassau County Chief Fire Marshall Scott Tusa.

It was the largest joint aid operation in Nassau County since superstorm Sandy, Tusa said. At its peak, more than 300 firefighters from 23 Nassau fire departments and eight Suffolk departments had responded.

The fire was first reported on Friday afternoon. Firefighters responded and left Friday evening. It flared up again on Saturday morning. Based on the amount of bog burned, Chief Raymond Plakstis with the Great Neck Alert Fire Company, said he believed the fire began sometime Wednesday or Thursday.

The cause of the fire, which authorities suspect started in a homemade firepit, was still under investigation. No structures were threatened.

Most of the burning was not visible. Rather it burned the peat base anywhere from two inches to 6 feet below the surface, he said.

"It's a very difficult fire," he said. "We have to penetrate the ground to extinguish it."

Because of the burned roots in the bog, some trees became unstable and crews were pulled out for their safety Friday and Saturday night. Plakstis described the spongy ground as "like walking on a mattress" and said it could collapse.

Larger wildfire trucks from Suffolk County, called stump jumpers, were sent away because of the conditions. Fire crews had hauled 5-inch fire hoses into the woods by Sunday afternoon, using all-terrain vehicles.

One Nassau County worker received a slight injury in a chain-saw incident, Plakstis said. He was treated at a hospital and released.

Tusa said a Nassau County Police Department helicopter had been doing occasional flyovers to identify hot spots with thermal imaging. Because of bad weather, Sunday's flyover was canceled and crews conducted the thermal imaging on the ground.

The Nassau County Fire Marshal's office, Nassau County Office of Emergency Management and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation also responded.

The fire took place within the Great Neck Alert Fire Company's jurisdiction.

Tusa said the dry fall weather had contributed to conditions conducive to fire in the bog. A thunderstorm and gusty winds were expected Monday morning, the service said.

"A good drenching would do us good," Tusa said.

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