Critics: State plan to battle Suffolk wildfires is weak

A new state plan aimed at battling brush fires is being slammed by critics who say it does not do enough to prevent a major incident.

The plan released by the Pine Barrens Commission calls for more controlled burns, but only in a portion of the Pine Barrens in the Flanders area. Critics, including many firefighters, say that's not good enough. The director of the Pine Barrens Commission agrees, but says the state has not provided enough funding to do preventive burns in all 102,000 acres.

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. In 2012, another fire scorched 1,100 acres in Manorville.

Environmentalist Dick Amper says history will repeat itself if steps aren't taken now. Amper says job No. 1 is to intentionally set controlled fires to burn away the dried brush that fuels huge wildfires.

"Unless we do controlled fires, the number and ferocity of fires in the future will only be greater," says Amper.

Some Flanders residents and firefighters told News 12 that they would like the state plan to address another issue: dead oak trees. The Flanders fire chief says the dead trees have caused damage to brush trucks and make getting into the Pine Barrens very difficult.

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