Huntington Town Monday began the process of clearing a huge wood chip and mulch pile on a West Hills property that has been the source of multiple fires over the past week.
Town Supervisor Frank Petrone declared a state of emergency Monday, which allowed the town to remove the pile on the privately owned lot. Fire officials describe the pile as about 300 feet long, 200 feet wide and up to 60 feet high in some areas.
Town code allows the supervisor to declare an emergency when there is significant concern for resident safety, town board member Mark Cuthbertson said at a news conference Monday next to the property. Chief town fire marshal Terence McNally said the Huntington Manor fire department had to respond to the pile at 1130 W. Jericho Tpke. "six or seven" times over the past week, including for several flare-ups over the weekend.
"This is a rarely exercised power," said Cuthbertson, joined by board member Susan Berland. "But here is a situation where we have fires burning that cause a threat to surrounding property and surrounding vegetation."
Petrone was out of town. The property owners, brothers Wayne and John Dougal, could not be reached for comment.
The town has hired a contractor to take the mulch to a private facility in Brookhaven Town. A worker operating a piece of heavy equipment Monday afternoon dumped debris into the beds of 18-wheel trailers. Removal costs will be attached to the property tax bill.
Last week, a State Supreme Court judge issued a temporary restraining order allowing town officials to shut down the Dougals' operation and ordered them and fire marshals to devise a plan to remove the pile.