Kevin Jennings, a biologist with the Department of Environmental Conservation,...

Kevin Jennings, a biologist with the Department of Environmental Conservation, conducts a cold trail check for hot spots inside wooded area off Crescent Bow in Ridge. (April 11, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

Firefighters mopped up hot spots and investigators searched for a cause Wednesday following the wildfire that torched 1,100 acres in Suffolk County.

"We have yet to rule anything in or out" when it comes to what started the inferno, said County Executive Steve Bellone, who urged anyone with information to come forward.

Investigators have determined the general area where the blaze ignited, but Brookhaven Senior Fire Marshal Walter Dunn said the precise location may never be known.

"We do know it began in the vicinity of the wooded areas that are part of the Brookhaven National Lab property to the northeast and wooded areas located within the Town of Brookhaven," he said.

The area, south of Route 25-Middle Country Road, includes federal-, county-, state- and town-owned land, as well as private property. Several agencies are investigating the cause of the blaze, the largest on Long Island since the 1995 Sunrise Fire.

Those blazes scorched more than 6,000 acres. It was determined that the largest of those fires had been intentionally set.

State firefighters and forest rangers carrying axes, shovels and safety gear headed into the pine barrens Wednesday to secure the edge of the fire zone.

The goal was to cold trail, which involves walking the edge of a fire line and seeking out any sources of heat in tree trunks or underfoot. Sand or water is used to treat hot spots.

"Mopping up is basically the same as putting out a campfire," said state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Bill Fonda, who spent more than a decade as a fire jumper out West.

Even as the hunt for hot spots continued, officials warned that with no heavy rain forecast, conditions remain optimal for more fires in coming days.

"It's so unusual out there after no snow, a dry spring so far, and now these winds," said Suffolk Fire and Rescue Commissioner Joe Williams. "People need to think carefully about any kind of outside burning -- be it barbecues, a cigarette butt or even disposing of what they think are cold coals from an indoor fire."

With the fire suppressed, affected residents began putting their lives back together.

George and Kathy Moretti waited to see whether their Manorville home, partially engulfed by the blaze, was still sound.

They also enlisted the help of an animal-welfare group, Guardians of Rescue, to search for two of their three cats, which were let loose as the fire neared. Only one cat has returned.

Robert Misseri, the rescue group's president, said Wednesday his volunteers were searching for 11 missing dogs and cats.

With Emily Dooley, Kery Murakami and Tania Lopez

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