A Mattituck man was arrested Sunday afternoon for striking and killing a jogger in St. James and fleeing the scene, Suffolk County police said. (more…)
A Mattituck man was arrested Sunday afternoon for striking and killing a jogger in St. James and fleeing the scene, Suffolk County police said. (more…)
Q & A
Come January, patients will be able to receive medical attention at the Winslow Specialty Care Center, the latest addition to PBMC Health’s campus for ambulatory care in Manorville.
The facility, which will feature offices for general surgery, gastroenterology and spinal surgery, among others, was made possible in part to a $1 million bequest from Richard Winslow of Aquebogue, a longtime benefactor and active member of the Peconic Bay Medical Center Board of Directors. (more…)
UPDATE 4:30 p.m.: Southold Town police announced Sunday afternoon that Paul Tromblee, the 35-year-old Manorville man arrested in connection with nine armed robberies across Suffolk County, will also be charged with last Tuesday’s robbery at GameStop in Mattituck.
ORIGINAL STORY: A Manorville man was arrested Saturday in connection with the armed robbery of the Hess gas station on Edwards Avenue in Calverton and at least eight other incidents, Suffolk County police said.
Paul Tromblee, 35, may still face charges in relation to other armed robberies in the county, police said. Southold Town Police said last week that the suspect in the other area robberies may have been responsible for the armed robbery of the GameStop store in Mattituck last Tuesday, though Mr. Tromblee has not yet been charged in connection with that incident.
Det. Lt. Edward Reilly of the Suffolk County Police Department said Sunday that detectives are working with Southold police, who he said still believe Mr. Tromblee is responsible for the Mattituck robbery.
Currently, Mr. Tromblee stands charged with eight counts of first-degree robbery and one count of third-degree robbery. He is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Sunday, Suffolk police said.
Since Oct. 26, gas stations in Calverton, Mastic, North Babylon, St. James, Dix Hills, and Bohemia as well as Jamba Juice in Stony Brook, Kissed by the Sun Tanning in Islip, and CVS Pharmacy in Lake Ronkonkoma were robbed by an armed suspect who demanded cash after pretending to purchase merchandise, police said. Utilizing video surveillance as well as tips, including information received via Crime Stoppers, Pattern Crime Unit detectives identified the suspect as Mr. Tromblee. He was located by detectives while driving on Sunrise Highway in Brookhaven around 3 p.m. Saturday.
The Hess gas station — barely in the jurisdiction of the SCPD – was robbed Oct. 30, after a man pulled a handgun on a store clerk, demanding cash from the register about 7:45 p.m.
Mohammed Kahn, the clerk at the Calverton Hess, told the News-Review on the night of the incident that the robber walked straight up to the register and demanded cash, first giving him the impression that the act was a trick.
“I was looking to him like he was joking,” Mr. Kahn said at the time.
Detectives are continuing to investigate if Mr. Tromblee is responsible for similar incidents that occurred recently. Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. Police said all calls will remain confidential.
Four alligators were captured from the Peconic River in Calverton by state conservation officers Friday morning, officials said.
State Department of Environmental Conservation officials said in a press release the reptiles — ranging 2- to 4-feet-long — were spotted by Frank Naase about 8 a.m. near a dock at the Connecticut Avenue canoe launch.
The Manorville resident, who officials said frequents the dock after his morning cup of coffee, immediately contacted the DEC after noticing one of the alligators floating by.
The alligators were lethargic due to the cold water they had been exposed to, and were transferred to DEC’s regional headquarters in Stony Brook and will ultimately be sent to the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, officials said.
After catching a nearly 2-foot-long alligator with a catch pole, Lt. Dallas Bengel and Environmental Conservation Officer Mark Simmons observed three more alligators in the water and secured each of the animals with tape around their jaws, officials said.
Alligators are illegal to own as pets in New York. People planning to use them for exhibition, research or educational purposes are require to obtain a DEC permit, officials said.
Friday’s incident occurred a week prior to Long Island’s first illegal reptile and amphibian amnesty day.
The DEC has partnered with the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow for a “one-time only amnesty program,” where people can anonymously bring their illegal or unpermitted reptiles and amphibians without fear of prosecution.
Species that do not require permits, or are not threatened or endangered will not be accepted.
DEC Regional Director Peter Scully said in a press release he hopes residents will take advantage of the program.
“Alligators released into Long Island waters have become an all too common occurrence in recent years,” Mr. Scully said. “Unfortunately, individuals who attain these animals often find themselves incapable of caring for them as they grow, and they ultimately release them into the waters of Long Island where they are unable to survive and may pose a risk to recreationalists.”
The program will take place at Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive in Smithtown, on April 27 from noon to 4 p.m.
To report any environmental crime, contact DEC’s hotline at 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332) or Dispatch number at (631) 444-0250.
Officials said calls will be kept confidential.
The charred and soot-covered Kawasaki motorcycle sat propped against piles of other burned debris next to a driveway on Oakwood Drive in Manorville. It was a classic, a 1985 454 Limited bike, one of George Moretti’s prized possessions.
The motorcycle is useless now, damaged beyond repair nearly a year ago in the massive wildfire that swept through this neighborhood. The house where he and his family had lived for 25 years — and everything inside it — were destroyed by the flames and smoke that jumped out from the Pine Barrens behind his property.
“The whole house was a loss except for the framework,” he said, sitting outside his trailer this week, watching as contractors worked on the shell of his house. He can’t get what happened out of his mind.
“I know it’s been a year,” Mr. Moretti said. “I think about it every day.”
The Wildfire of 2012 burned more than 1,100 acres of the Pine Barrens in Manorville and Calverton last April 9. The seventh largest wildfire in state history started on Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Upton property and, fueled by strong winds and dry tinder on the forest floor, quickly spread south and east into the Riverhead Town section of Manorville.
The blaze raged for more than 24 hours, destroying homes, injuring local firefighters and forcing the evacuation of nearby residents as the flames drew ever closer to residential neighborhoods. Dozens of fire departments helped bring the inferno under control.
Since then, fire departments across Suffolk County have been reviewing their procedures, and environmental experts and officials say plans are in the works to create new procedures for fighting wildfires and adding additional resources like water wells to the area.
A Suffolk County task force found that “communications was the major issue” in the local response to the fire, said County Executive Steve Bellone.
“That’s what you get from having a decentralized system,” he said. “It is difficult to communicate from department to department.”
But neighboring fire departments, which often work together, all said they have taken steps to smooth out how they manage their resources.
The Manorville Fire Department, which took the lead, was most affected by the blaze. It lost a brush truck — an off-road vehicle designed to fight forest fires — when flames surrounded it in the Pine Barrens and volunteers had to ditch it. Some were hurt and one suffered severe burns.
A new brush truck is being built for the department, fire officials said, and the injured firefighters have recovered.
With wildfires more likely this time of year, the Manorville department has also purchased a six-wheel ATV equipped with a hose to fight “spot” brush fires, fire officials said.
Riverhead Fire Department officials have been reviewing their plans for helping other departments, said second assistant chief Kevin Brooks. A few weeks ago, Riverhead chiefs met with chiefs from Manorville, Ridge, Wading River, Yaphank and Rocky Point departments to go over “mutual aid” procedures.
“We all work together really well,” Mr. Brooks said. “The most important thing in a wildfire like that is getting resources out as fast as possible.”
Last year, the Riverhead department raced to three different locations to fight the fire, one at the Brookhaven National Lab property, one in Manorville and another on Grumman Boulevard in Calverton. The spread-out locations made it even more challenging for firefighters to coordinate their efforts, Mr. Brooks said.
“It was a difficult one from a command standpoint because it was in three different jurisdictions,” he said.
The Riverhead department’s volunteers are trained on brush truck safety and how to drive the vehicles, Mr. Brooks said, adding that some departments were considering covering trucks to prevent injuries from falling branches.
On the whole though, Mr. Brooks says the Riverhead Fire Department can handle another wildfire.
“I think we’re ready for it,” he said. “We’ve got some of the best guys around and we have a lot of experience dealing with brush fires … I think with every large fire you get better with experience.”
Fire departments from farther east also learned from the wildfire.
Jamesport firefighters spent 29 hours working in shifts to combat the flames. First assistant chief Sean McCabe said the department has since “beefed up [its] response to these types of incidents.
“When they call for tankers we send a support pumper [truck] with it,” he said. “It’s a safety thing for us now to just assign a pumper. It gives us the ability to bring more manpower with us.”
Since the wildfire, Suffolk County officials have been working on installing fire suppression wells in the Manorville area.
Bill Faulk, a former county legislative aide who now works for Brookhaven Town, said the county’s well-drilling unit has put the equipment needed for the project out to bid and will have the first well drilled in early May.
“They’re ready to go,” he said of the drillers. “They’re all set.”
The wells will give firefighters access to water in neighborhoods that don’t have fire hydrants.
“[The wells] are all located along the roadway,” Mr. Faulk said. “This plan is to deal with some of the more remote areas. Even on the main roads, that’s more water than you have there now.”
The county will ultimately drill four or five wells this year, with another four or five planned between Brookhaven and Riverhead Towns, he said.
Richard Amper, executive director of the Pine Barrens Society environmental group, said the wells pose no threat to the area’s ecosystem. But he said the best way to prevent future fires is to use controlled burns to clear out smaller sections of the forest, something the county and state are looking into.
“The Pine Barrens are a fire-dependent ecosystem,” Mr. Amper said. “That means they must burn periodically and have been burning for thousands of years. The burning process clears the underbrush and opens pine cones and drops their seeds on the newly cleared forest floors.”
But because the Pine Barrens are near suburban communities, fires have been “suppressed regularly in the interest of protecting public health and safety,” he said.
This leads to incidents like last year, when a wealth of tinder sparked and grew into an out-of-control wildfire in moments.
Mr. Amper said the area of the Pine Barrens that burned, now littered with the skeletons of charred trees and small patches of brush, is recovering as expected.
He said officials are planning to selectively burn 1,500 to 2,000 acres of the Pine Barrens’ 105,000 acres each year to limit the chance of large wildfires in the future. Unlike last year’s wildfire, these burns would not occur all at once but would be conducted only under the best conditions in small, 20-acre increments, Mr. Amper said.
New York State Central Pine Barrens Commission executive director John Pavacic said the commission is “taking a fresh look” at updating its fire management plan. The group is also working to educate residents on how to limit wildfire damage by protecting their homes.
The commission will meet with the Flanders Riverside Northampton Community Association next week to teach good fire habits, like keeping firewood away from the side of the house.
“That’s our first foray into getting out into the community,” Mr. Pavacic said.
The commission will also host its first springtime fire academy for firefighters at the Brookhaven National Lab property next week geared toward prescribed fires and prescribed fire management, he said.
“We are getting interest not just from within our region but outside our region as well,” he said. “We have people coming from all over the country.”
Ultimately, the Manorville wildfire served as a wake-up call to local fire departments and government officials.
“The biggest lesson is that one can never become complacent,” Mr. Pavacic said. “Even though it had been a significant amount of time since the last wildfire in 1995 you can never let your guard down.”
The Suffolk County Arson Squad and the state Department of Environmental Conservation have labeled the wildfire as “intentionally set,” though officials couldn’t be reached to give an update on the investigation. Suffolk County police have offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Some residents who lost their property to the flames have recovered. But most others, like Mr. Moretti and his family, are still feeling the effects.
Paul Dill lost a pool house at his Wading River Manor Road residence, as firefighters used water from his pool to put out the fire and beat back the flames. His driveway still bears scorch marks and a nearby fence is burned to a crisp.
Mr. Dill said he has since filled in the pool and demolished the pool house.
“All things being equal, because of taxes and everything, we didn’t rebuild,” he said. He said he and his wife were fortunate not to lose their home and have done their best to move on.
“We’re not trauma people,” he said. “If something happens you get by it.”
Next door, Mr. Dill’s neighbor Neal Coleman lost tens of thousands of dollars in equipment that wasn’t covered by his insurance. Thankfully, Mr. Coleman said, his house was spared when the wind shifted just before the fire reached it.
On Oakwood Drive, Ray and Jane Kreiger were also lucky. They lost the trees in their backyard but the house was untouched.
“Fortunately, we didn’t lose anything that was sentimental or valuable,” Mr. Kreiger said.
“I’m amazed it didn’t melt the gazebo,” Ms. Kreiger said. “It was such a raging fire when it came through … we didn’t think there’d be a house standing [when we came back].”
The couple credited firefighters for drawing the line on their street and saving many homes, including theirs.
“The fire departments did a good job,” Mr. Kreiger said. “They held on, considering the massive wall of flame coming right at us. It is just amazing.”
As for the aftermath, the stumps of the burned trees on their property were pulled out only recently, after Mr. Kreiger and his son rented a lift, he said.
“We’re still cleaning up,” he said, adding the family is still waiting for payment on some insurance claims.
But not everyone has recovered yet. Stanley Krupski, who lost his repair shop on Wading River Manor Road to the fire has been battling insurance companies to get his property repaired.
“That was my life savings in the tools and parts and everything,” he said.
A year later, and he’s no closer to rebuilding his shop.
“It was very heartbreaking,” Mr. Krupski said. “I just had to turn very thing over to the attorney. I couldn’t deal with it myself.”
He said he was “disappointed” by politicians who came to stand on his property after the wildfire and voice their support but have done little to help him in his struggle.
“It was really disappointing,” he said.
Like Mr. Krupski, the Morettis down the road have some waiting to do.
Their new house was supposed to be ready a few months ago, but Hurricane Sandy and this winter’s blizzards pushed back construction.
“Everything has been delayed,” Mr. Moretti said. “If the weather had been cooperating this would have been done.”
Problems with the insurance and service companies have also caused headaches for Mr. Moretti. He said he hopes the house will be finished by the end of April. It has to be, he said; the family isn’t allowed to stay in the trailer on their property past then.
“We’re making do,” he said. “You can get frustrated but it doesn’t do you any good. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
A Manorville woman was arrested Sunday on drunk driving charges in Cutchogue, according to Southold Town police.
Julianne Mundell, 21, was arrested shortly after 3 a.m. after she failed to drive within her lane on Main Road and was found to be intoxicated, officials said.
Ms. Mundell was charged with DWI and held overnight for arraignment, police said.
“I went in there and it was chaos,” said “Big John” Savastano of Manorville, describing the scene at the Annie’s Acres horse stable on Wading River Manor Road as Monday’s wildfires approached. “There were 30 to 40 fire trucks that went up the road when we were there.”
The fire was heading their way.
With the flames fast approaching, horse owners at the many Manorville area stables were in a panic, using social media and other methods to call for help in moving horses to safety.
But in the end, the members of the “horse community,” as they call themselves, pulled together to make sure all the horses were safe.
“The horse community was wonderful,” said Carolyn Jolly, co-owner of Hidden Pond Stables on North Street in Manorville. “Everybody stepped up.”
Some horses were walked to safety, while others were loaded onto trailers and taken elsewhere temporarily, Ms. Jolly said.
“At one time, there must have been 200 horses walking down the street with their bridles,” said Joe Williams, county commissioner of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services. Initially, police were not letting horse trailers in because the roads were closed to traffic due to the fire, Ms. Jolly said, but the authorities eventually relented.
Hidden Pond Stables evacuated 40 of its 83 horses, Ms. Jolly said. By the time those animals were moved, the fire was under better control and, with danger no longer imminent, the rest of the horses were allowed to remain.
Ms. Jolly said word got out via email and Facebook that help was needed and, eventually, there were about 50 volunteers, including owners of horse transport companies donating their time and trailers.
She said the authorities didn’t supply any trailers or suggest ways to get the horses out.
“The horse community did it [themselves],” she said, though no stables were damaged in the fires.
Lynne Weissbard, owner of Sundance Stables on North Street, said she didn’t evacuate her horses. Instead, she rounded them up in the center of the property while the fire department wet down the perimeter. And it worked.
“If the fire came in from the side of the property, we would have had to evacuate, but the fire blasted past us in about five minutes,” Ms. Weissbard said.
With her horses safe, she sent all the people who came to her stable to help over to Annie’s Acres instead.
“The fire had moved past here, and we were OK, so I really wanted them to help where they were most needed,” said Ms. Weissbard, who spent 18 years with the Manorville Fire Department herself.
The volunteers included people who kept their horses at Sundance Stables, as well as others in the horse profession, she said.
“We all kept in touch with one another and bonded together,” she said. “It’s a small group of people with a passion for horses. I had probably 50 to 60 people volunteering here, from different professions. They were terrific.”
She said everything was under control and organized and everyone involved made sure that horses and buildings were not exposed to fire.
“Because we did that, we’re not out searching for our animals today,” Ms. Weissbard said. “They’re here.”
Catrina Tedesco of Manorville took her horse, Irish, from Annie’s Acres and walked him about two miles to Grumman Boulevard to get him out of harm’s way.
She originally started walking him along Old River Road, but the horse was getting spooked by passing cars, so she walked him through the Swan Lake golf course to Grumman Boulevard, marching the horse past an array of fire trucks and emergency vehicles.
Annie’s Acres, which boards about 60 horses, was spared by the fire, but the house directly across the street from the stable was destroyed.
Court Fleming picked up his wife at the Ronkonkoma train station after work Monday and headed home to Manorville, not knowing what to expect when they got there.
They never made it past the Manorville Post Office.
Mr. Fleming and Thelma Pacson were the first of the evacuees to seek shelter Monday night at the Riverhead Senior Center in Aquebogue as a massive wildfire raged in the woodlands of eastern Suffolk County.
Mr. Fleming and Ms. Pacson said they learned about the fire about 3 p.m. — roughly a half hour after it started on the Brookhaven National Lab property in Ridge — from their two daughters currently home from college.
The daughters noticed a large plume of smoke in the air as they were headed to an area gym for a workout, the couple said. Then the daughters turned around, returned home and grabbed the family’s two dogs.
Mr. Fleming said both roads leading to his house — Mill Road and Line Road — were eventually closed.
“I never thought this could happen,” he said. “We couldn’t go down the street. There were fire trucks going in and out. All around us, apparently, was engulfed in smoke and flames.”
Mr. Fleming, 58, a Long Island facilities manager, and Ms. Pacson, 55, who works as an accounts payable manager in Manhattan, first met up with their daughters and pets at the post office, located less than a mile from their home on Wading River Manor Road. Once they found out they wouldn’t be allowed to return to their home, the family, including their two dogs, sought shelter and found it in Aquebogue, where the American Red Cross was on the scene.
“It was a little like camping,” Mr. Fleming said Tuesday afternoon of his overnight stay. “The Red Cross is an outstanding organization. It was very comfortable and very pleasant staying here.”
Red Cross shelter manager Scott Wheaton said Tuesday a total of six people had used the shelter since the fire broke out, with two people only staying for a short time after making arrangements with friends, he said.
Riverhead Town announced about 6:30 p.m. Monday, some four hours after the largest fire started at the lab, that people should evacuate homes in the area of Wading River-Manor Road and Schultz Road east to Edwards Avenue, as well as those living anywhere between the Peconic River north to Grumman Boulevard.
County officials could not say Tuesday exactly how many people were evacuated in all.
As for Mr. Fleming and his family, they were allowed to return home Tuesday afternoon. At about 1:30 p.m., a Riverhead police officer called Mr. Fleming’s cell to say it was safe for the family to return, though the power might remain out for precautionary reasons.
“Super,” said a smiling Mr. Fleming upon learning of the news.