LINDENHURST, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Firefighters will stay on high alert Thursday over concerns about flare ups from a blaze that torched several homes and sparked a large brush fire in Suffolk County.
The fire Wednesday in the area of Copiague and Lindenhurst damaged five homes and left at least two charred and destroyed.
“It was intense down here, like the ashes,” said witness Simon Hick. “The wind changed direction so fast that the ashes, the island was on fire. Came through the neighborhood and started lighting stuff up.”
The fire started at a house on East Santa Barbara Road as the result of an electrical short in a wall-mounted air conditioner. A mother inside grabbed her child and ran out immediately.
“All of a sudden they yelled, ‘It’s out of control’ and at that point, I saw the whole back yard up in flames,” said witness Laura St. Angelo.
The heat from the flames were so intense, they melted the siding of Keith Bush’s home.
“I went in to get my phone charger, of all things, and I saw smoke coming through the wall,” he said.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, Bush had been overwhelmed with worry on Wednesday, when his neighbors called him at work to tell him that the street was on fire, and his house was melting.
“I thought my house would be gone, and my cats would be gone,” he said.
Fire destroyed only the siding, as another house blocked what could have happened. His cats Lexi and Ciro were safe.
“It’s incredible. I’m very lucky,” Bush said.
After spreading to nearby homes, the flames jumped over Strongs Creek and then spread to the tinder-dry brush at nearby Indian Island wildlife refuge, creating a huge plume of smoke.
Fire crews worked for hours hosing down the homes and the dry brush to prevent a full-blown disaster, CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported.
“This is tragic, but it could’ve been a lot worse,” said Acting Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini.
The whole area is still recovering from Superstorm Sandy. Many of the homes are being prepared for elevation, while others are waiting to be demolished.
Sarah Aldridge, 35, surveyed the damage to her rebuilt, elevated home which had just been repaired. It was again condemned on Thursday, by the blaze that left the walls charred and roof collapsed.
“I was supposed to move back in in two weeks and now it is going to be another year and two weeks now dealing with the insurance companies,” she said.
The Bolognas across the street had also just rehabbed their Sandy damaged home.
“Just part of life, you have to keep going,” Ron Bologna said.
Wind an dry conditions on Thursday, remained a concern for firefighters. They doused the brush to protect property, pets, wildlife, and Ralph Soluri’s egg laying hens.
“I was in the fire department for a bunch of years, and even inside houses I’ve never seen smoke like that in my life. Couldn’t see the front of your had, so I was worried about the chickens,” he said.
The family that lived in the home that was completely leveled by the fire was planning to move out to make repairs from Sandy.