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Milburn Flooring Mills worked at school before fire

The company working on the gymnasium floor of the West Babylon elementary school destroyed by fire last month has been identified in public records as Milburn Flooring Mills of Copiague.

Fire officials have said the quick-moving fire at South Bay Elementary School started when plastic bags stuffed with combustible painting materials ignited after being left in a hallway by a contractor working in the gym. The contractor had not been identified by fire or district officials.

However, a purchase order released by the West Babylon school district in response to a Freedom of Information request from Newsday shows the district hired Milburn for the job at a cost of $9,808.80.

The order includes instructions to "apply game line stripes" on the gym floor as well as to sand the floor and apply sealer and polyurethane.

Repeated calls and e-mails to Milburn executives were not returned. A representative identified on the order as "contact person Frank Castiglione" referred calls to the district.

In response to queries by Newsday, district officials said West Babylon has used the company before and never had a problem. The company's Web site says it handles all kinds of residential and commercial jobs and even showcases a basketball floor.

Milburn is a Better Business Bureau-accredited business with an A-plus rating.

District officials said it was their "understanding that the contractor was responsible for removing items from the site as they did so in the beginning of the week."

When asked whether Milburn would be held liable for the damage to the K-5 school, district officials said the claim is being handled by the district's insurance company. District officials are continuing to survey the damage.

The fire started when plastic bags stuffed with combustible painting materials such as paint cans and shavings from the gym floor coating ignited after being left in a service hallway by a contractor working in the gym, fire officials have said.

Gil Hanse, Babylon fire marshal, has said boundary lines were being painted on the gym floor over the February break. The specialty paint used in the project contained a material that spontaneously combusts under certain circumstances, such as being packed in a plastic bag.

Marc Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors' Association, Inc., said proper procedures must be followed when removing such materials.

"Without specific knowledge of the incident, the standard industry practice is to remove combustible materials from interior settings during the work period and dispose it in outdoor roll-off waste containers," Herbst said. "The containers should be placed at least 15 feet away from any structures. All materials should be properly vented as a precaution."

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