A difficult-to-reach brushfire in state parkland near the Walking Dunes and Goff Point at the western edge of Hither Woods burned approximately 25 acres of grassland on Friday night, July 22nd, according to Montauk Fire Chief Scott Snow.
The fire was first reported shortly after 7 p.m. by a passer by. Although a quick response, the fire was in a remote location not accessible by road. Beach access was “limited because the tide was coming up…,” Chief Snow said. “We had one truck make it out there and then the state parks department had an A.T.V. to transport the people.”
The Amagansett, East Hampton, Bridgehampton, and Sag Harbor Fire Departments aided in the effort to bring the fire under control. But, in trying to reach the fire, one truck became bogged down in marshy terrain and another got stuck in the sand. Larger trucks all had problems according to Chief Snow. All of the firefighters who reached the scene made it there from the beach, after an unsuccessful attempt from Hither Woods. Firefighters were called on to use their personal four-wheel-drive vehicles to transport personnel and supplies to the scene. They arrived bit by bit in smaller vehicles, and attacked the flames with backpack water cans. Some 60 to 70 firefighters aided in the effort.
A Suffolk County Police Department helicopter was called in to illuminate the area as night fell so firefighters could find paths to the flames and locate remaining hotspots. East Hampton Town Police Department employed drones to find additional hotspots as the night wore on. The Hither Hills west overlook and the end of Napeague Harbor Road became staging areas.
At one point, an eastbound Long Island Rail Road train headed to Montauk was stopped between Napeague Meadow and Napeague Harbor Road. It returned to Amagansett. This was a precaution taken because trucks and personnel were crossing back and forth over the tracks. By 11:30 all equipment and personnel were safe and back on pavement and regular train service could resume. Montauk Highway remained open throughout.
On Saturday morning, July 23rd, at 10:10am the fire re-ignited and Montauk Fire Department responded and extinguished. Later on that day, at 2:30pm, the fire rekindled again. This time, the Springs Fire Department joined Montauk, Amagansett, East Hampton, Bridgehampton, and Sag Harbor Fire Departments in containing the fire. Two New York State Parks Police officers were then stationed overnight to watch for signs of it starting up yet again.
“The biggest thing, with this drought we’re in, is to be careful with fire and what you’re doing outdoors,” Chief Snow said. He did not speculate as to the cause of the fire.