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Babylon fire official: 2 Oak Island homes burned during storm

In this photo provided by the Babylon Fire

In this photo provided by the Babylon Fire Department, volunteer firefighters board a hovercraft borrowed from a neighboring fire department at Jones Beach on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2018, as they tried to reach a fire Oak Island. Credit: AP / Eric Price

A fire on remote Oak Island in the Great South Bay burned two homes to the ground during Thursday’s snowstorm, officials said.

No one was injured in the blaze, which tore through the summer residences Thursday morning before firefighters could reach them, according to Babylon Fire Chief Scott Glenn. The cause of the fire remains unknown, he said.

Glenn sent some 50 firefighters to nearby Ocean Parkway about 10 a.m. in an effort to reach the fire. But a thick sheet of ice separated them from Oak Island, whose roughly 50 summer homes are accessible only by boat, he said.

Lakeland Fire Department sent a hovercraft, which can cross ice, to the scene, Glenn said. Three firefighters then traveled on the vehicle to the island, where they found small smoldering fires among the wreckage that frigid winds would blow out, Glenn said.

Department members will return to the scene in the coming days to determine the fire’s cause, Glenn said. One person was on the island at the time — its lone year-round resident — and she was unharmed, Glenn said.

Brian Neil of Islip walked to the island Thursday morning across more than 100 yards of ice atop the Great South Bay to check on his home there after hearing about the fire.

He said he saw the two houses that had burned down.

“The houses were completely gone,” said Neil, 51, a marine contractor. “There was still some small fires burning. They burned themselves out with all this wind.”

Photos Neil took at the scene show the charred remains of the homes: bare wooden beams and outdoor staircases leading to nowhere.

“There’s nothing you can do,” Neil said. “Once something burns over there, it burns.”

Neil said his house was not damaged in the blaze. He did not know who owned the destroyed homes.

Oak Island is a tiny barrier landmass in the Great South Bay north of Jones Beach Island and west of the Robert Moses Causeway. Residents own their homes and lease the land from the Town of Babylon, according to town spokesman Kevin Bonner. There is no electrical grid on the island, and homeowners rely on propane, solar and wind power, Bonner said.

With Nicole Fuller and Joie Tyrrell

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