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Uniondale brush fire extinguished, officials say

Firefighters battle a brush fire in the Hempstead

Firefighters battle a brush fire in the Hempstead Plains just off the Meadowbrook Parkway in Uniondale on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A brush fire burned a football field-size area behind Uniondale hotel not far from Nassau Community College and Hofstra University before it was doused in the evening, officials said Monday.

No one was hurt in the 3-acre blaze, said assistant Uniondale fire chief T.J. Smith, though he said authorities suspect the fire may have been started by homeless people living in the area. State Police were looking for them, he said.

The most serious casualty may have been to a so-called stump jumper firetruck, which became is stuck in the brush after hitting a hole and blowing a tire. Another stump jumper was dispatched to help.

“The homeless are living in there, and they make a tent city out of it,” Smith said. “When we pulled up, everybody was running out.” He said about seven people ran out.

The fire was deep inside the preserve, which made it hard for vehicles to get in because “the terrain is extremely uneven, multiple holes and poison ivy.”

“The tents and everything burned inside, their clothes, their camping equipment,” Smith said.

About 110 firefighters from seven departments helped put down the flames, including those from Plainview, East Meadow, Roosevelt, Westbury, Hempstead, Garden City and Uniondale.

“Brush fires are labor intensive,” Smith said. “It’s time-consuming and dangerous for the guys.”

The brush fire began about 1:05 p.m. at the Hempstead Plains Preserve behind the Marriott Hotel, 101 James Doolittle Blvd., officials said. It was extinguished by 6:30 p.m.

Eastbound Charles Lindberg Boulevard was closed briefly at Earl Ovington Boulevard, Nassau County police said.

With Rachel Uda

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