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Copiague fire burns homes, spreads to Indian Island

Firefighters battled a fire that spread to five

Firefighters battled a fire that spread to five homes in Copiague on Wednesday, April 20, 2016. Credit: News 12 Long Island

A fast-moving fire damaged five Copiague homes Wednesday afternoon before embers from the blaze leapt across a canal, setting off a brush fire on an uninhabited island, authorities said.

Firefighters from across Long Island battled the blaze, which police said began at a home on East Santa Barbara Road at 1:50 p.m.

The fire ignited four other homes before embers spread to dry brush on Indian Island in Copiague Neck County Park, Suffolk police said.

More than 200 firefighters from 15 departments worked for hours to douse the fires.

The inferno began during a week when the National Weather Service warned that the region’s dry, gusty conditions could allow for the rapid spread of any brush fire.

While firefighters were able to keep the blaze contained among a small cluster of houses — including two that were vacant and undergoing repairs after superstorm Sandy — the fire on the island proved harder to extinguish, said Joseph F. Williams, Suffolk County’s commissioner of fire, rescue and emergency services.

“The only way we can reach it is with fire boats,” he said.

The fire on the island, which is covered in tall grass, was extinguished Wednesday night, but authorities planned to monitor it due to the dry conditions, Williams said.

No residents were injured, according to police, but Williams said two firefighters suffered minor smoke inhalation. One was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip for treatment, police said.

Wednesday’s high winds caused embers from the fire to cross the canal, Williams said.

Craig Siebuhr, 30, a welder who lives near the area, spent much of the afternoon watering the roof of his girlfriend’s parents’ home on East Santa Barbara with a garden hose.

“I saw them all go up, and then I saw the island go,” Siebuhr said, gesturing to a scorched tree line hundreds of feet long on Indian Island. “The whole island was on fire.”

Mercedes Soluri, who lives across the street from the fire-charred homes, said she came home from her job as an elementary school cook at about 2 p.m. to find her block filled with fire trucks and plumes of smoke in the sky.

Her daughter also returned from work about the same time and the family watched the scene, concerned the fire would spread to their home. They moved her grandchildren to safety at her mother-in-law’s house.

“I didn’t know if the wind was going to change and it was going to come to my house,” Soluri, 53, said of the blaze. “My daughter has her three little kids here and I was scared they weren’t going to get it under control.”

The family was finally back in their home Wednesday night, but Soluri said everything in the home smelled of smoke and they had been warned the flames on Indian Island could come back during the night. At about 9 p.m., she said firefighters and police remained at the scene, picking through charred wood and embers.

An official with the Town of Babylon fire marshal’s office said Wednesday afternoon that the house where the fire originated will be bulldozed.

Suffolk police said arson section detectives were investigating the fire, but on Wednesday believed its cause was noncriminal.

With Laura Blasey

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