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Long IslandSuffolk

LI firefighters to get a festival of thanks

Farmingville fire department members Dominic Russo, 28, Chris

Farmingville fire department members Dominic Russo, 28, Chris Russo, 24, dad Sal Russo, 48, and Justin Russo, 20 are all involved in the effort to contain the wildfires in Suffolk. (April 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Mario Gonzalez

Hundreds of firefighters battled the wildfire that burned more than 1,000 acres of pine barrens in Manorville and Ridge this week. Thursday, officials announced a daylong thank-you celebration for those volunteer first responders.

The festival is scheduled for May 19 at the Brookhaven Amphitheater in Farmingville.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko declined to say what performers will headline the show, an appreciation for volunteers, their families, friends and the public.

Lesko said the event will bring "some pretty big acts," adding, "It's gonna knock your socks off." JVC Broadcasting, which operates the amphitheater, will co-sponsor the event with the county.

The fire, which began Monday, was brought under control late Tuesday. Firefighters still doused hot spots Wednesday, but by Thursday the fire appeared to be out. It destroyed 1,124 acres, damaged at least three homes and at least one commercial building. Officials said it was the seventh-largest wildfire in state history, the largest being the 1995 Sunrise Fire that destroyed more than 6,000 acres.

In paying tribute to firefighters, Riverhead Town Councilman John Dunleavy said Thursday that he visited affected Riverhead residents and that while six "structures" were destroyed -- a pool house, garage and other out buildings -- no homes in the town burned down. Dunleavy joined Bellone, Lesko, fire chiefs from Ridge and Manorville, and other officials for the festival announcement.

Bellone said arson investigators confirmed the wildfire began on the grounds of the federally owned Brookhaven National Laboratory, although, he said, the cause had yet to be determined. A team of State Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers and firefighters spent several hours in the area Wednesday, working east, scouting for hot spots. They were looking about 100 yards south from the end of Crescent Bow, where the lab's property borders county parkland and Brookhaven town land, as well as private residences.

DESK, PLEASE RESTORE FOR THE WEB/kkCalling it a "unique" investigation led by the county police arson squad and supported by the state's forestry service, Brookhaven and Riverhead fire marshals and officials from the lab, Bellone said the team is continuing to follow leads.An "after-action review" is being planned to determine what lessons can be learned from the blaze. That session, to be held next week, will include county and town officials, fire departments, state agencies and police, Bellone said.

With Emily Dooley

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