The Hampton Bays Fire Department battled two brush fires in three days last week.
The fires, one of which started Wednesday evening and the other on Friday night, each burned about an acre of woods in the hamlet but did not result in any injuries or property damage.
The first fire started at around 6 p.m. last Wednesday, May 6, in a patch of woods near the Town and Country Apartments on Lamplighters Circle in Hampton Bays. Southampton Town Fire Marshal Brian Williams said it was sparked by a homeless man cooking on a camping stove in the woods. He said the incident has been ruled an accident.
Hampton Bays Fire Chief Bill Hutchison said his department sent 20 volunteers, two brush trucks, a fire engine and a tanker in to battle the blaze. It took about two hours to extinguish the flames, he said.
The second fire started late Friday night along the Long Island Rail Road tracks, near Exit 66 on Sunrise Highway, Mr. Hutchison said. A cause has not yet been determined.
Reports came in shortly before midnight of a strong smell of smoke in the air, but because it was dark and foggy, Mr. Hutchison said it was difficult to track down the blaze in the woods. Its location right along the LIRR tracks made it difficult to fight, he added.
“It was very steep terrain, so it was tough to get the brush trucks down there,” he said.
Train service in the area was suspended for about three hours while volunteers from the Hampton Bays and Southampton fire departments battled the flames until after 3 a.m. Saturday.
Mr. Williams said it is possible that the second fire could have been started by a spark flung from a passing train, but that has yet to be determined conclusively. That incident is still under investigation.
Mr. Hutchison said the dry wood and, in particular, dead trees that had fallen victim to the southern pine beetle contributed to both brush fires. “It was bone dry in there,” he said.