Suffolk wildfires spur new training, better communication

In 1995, roughly 7,000 acres of land over 12 square miles in Suffolk County burned for days in what was the largest wildfire in the history of Long Island.

Homes and businesses were damaged during the incident, and hundreds of Long Island residents were forced from their homes.

The wildfire began in an area near the eastern campus of Suffolk Community College in Riverhead and ended in Westhampton.

Volunteers from every fire department on Long Island, along with firefighters from New York City and Connecticut, battled the flames. However, having all those different units on the same scene created problems, as News 12 correspondent Matt Jablow pointed out in one of his live reports from the scene 20 years ago.

"Communications has become, or is becoming a problem, throughout the day. There are so many departments out here and only so many two-way channels to talk on," says Jablow.

Ridge Fire Chief Shawn Davis says communications systems have changed.

"Now we have radio frequencies that everybody has access to," says Davis.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Commissioner Joe Williams says there is also a wildfire academy for fire crews and plans for a new training center.

Extended video coverage can also be viewed on News 12 Interactive, Channel 612. Just go to the '12 Extra' tab to view the content.

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