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Aug 24, 2015 5:49 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Elected Officials Reflect On 20th Anniversary Of Sunrise Wildfires

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. speaks during a press conference held Monday morning in Westhampton to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sunrise Wildfires. KYLE CAMPBELL
Aug 25, 2015 4:00 PM

Local officials gathered in Westhampton on Monday morning to reflect on the 1995 Sunrise Wildfires, a historic blaze sparked exactly 20 years earlier and, before it was done, charred more than 3,200 acres of Pine Barrens over the course of a week.

During the press conference organized by the Central Pine Barrens Joint Policy and Planning Commission, politicians and others shared their firsthand accounts of the blaze and expressed their gratitude to the nearly 2,000 firefighters and other volunteers who battled it.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. used his time at the podium to share one of his own burning concerns: “My great fear today is that by having all these politicians speak, all that hot air might spark another wildfire,” he said with a chuckle.

Mr. Thiele described the cooperation between all of the local fire departments and ambulance corps, including those who traveled from as far away as Queens as the wildfires continued to spread, as an astounding display of cooperation and coordination. He was joined by Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and several Suffolk County Legislators who also spoke during the conference.

John Pavacic, executive director of the Central Pine Barrens Joint Policy and Planning Commission, led off the event by outlining steps that have been taken during the past 20 years to improve brush fire prevention and containment.

Mr. Pavacic pointed out that, as a fire-dependent ecosystem, the Pine Barrens need periodic, controlled burns in order to be replenished. However, he said tools like the Wildfire Task Force, the Central Pine Barrens Fire Management Plan and the New York Wildlife and Incident Management Academy have created an infrastructure for dealing with these fires when they do occur by a force of nature or through an act of man.

“None of these initiatives will outright prevent wildfires,” Mr. Pavacic said. “All you need to see for evidence of that is the brush fire that occurred just up the road two weeks ago … but we do feel now that we’re better prepared than ever before to ensure that a fire that starts in the Pine Barrens stays in the Pine Barrens, and is managed and extinguished as quick as possible.”

He was referring to a brush fire that occurred on August 10 that burned approximately 5 acres of Pine Barrens along the west side of Old Riverhead Road in Westhampton, which firefighters said was one of the bigger such blazes in recent years.

Ms. Throne-Holst said it is important to be aware that wildfires are a part of the forest’s natural process and that local outfits must be prepared when they do occur.

Ms. Throne-Holst, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin for his seat in Congress in 2016, also used the event as an opportunity to speak out about global climate change.

“We look at what’s going on out west and we realize this is not a situation that is going to change anytime soon,” she said, referring to drought conditions in southern California and wildfires that are burning in northern California, Oregon, Washington State and Idaho. “We’re dealing with climate change, we’re dealing with temperature changes, we’re dealing with build-out, we’re dealing with new realities.”

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Good grief Ms. Throne-Holst, please stop with the phony global warming nonsense and focus on the heroic effort of the firefighters who put out the wild fires.

Thank goodness pragmatic Lee Zeldin is our East End representative.
By BillWillConn3 (180), Southampton on Aug 24, 15 9:54 PM
Global warming is not a farce.

Ocean acidification, ocean warming, methane hydrate eruptions, deformed phytoplankton, methane output from various sources including warming tundra and cattle farms, and the coup de grace of the list surpassing 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. Something is increasing the CO2 level in the atmosphere, and the most recent satellite data shows it's anthropogenic.

For reference, most of the petroleum which has been burned since the industrial revolution ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 25, 15 12:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
Farting cows are the cause of global warming?? I can't stand it anymore
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Aug 25, 15 7:26 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By DennisPelliccia (1), on Aug 31, 15 1:54 PM
A press conference to pat thenselves on the back? The volenteers fought that fire not these political wind bags. By the way Mr Z thank you for another cut and paste.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 25, 15 7:34 AM
Actually, that was from memory. The above slight has a minute meaning coming from someone who can't even spell, with most browsers supporting spell check these days.

You should try a subscription to CR4 digest, or GlobalSpec, possibly Scientific American, or at the very least Discover magazine...
Aug 25, 15 9:29 PM appended by Mr. Z
You also may want to read up on the Sockeye Salmon in Idaho.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 25, 15 9:29 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By DennisPelliccia (1), on Aug 31, 15 10:45 AM
Anna get off the box. Never did anything for volunteers in her years on the board. Built three houses, WOW.....
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Sep 2, 15 4:23 PM