An investigation by Brookhaven Town Fire Marshals and Suffolk County Arson Squad has determined that Saturday's fire at the former Lawrence Aviation site was criminal in nature.
No other details were immediately made available, as the investigation remains ongoing.
"I wouldn't go what into caused the fire," said Sgt. George White. "Only two people know that: us, and the person who lit it."
Fire units responded to the Sheep Pasture Road property – an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site currently undergoing remediation – shortly after 3:30 p.m. on Saturday to find the former administrative building aflame.
It was quickly determined that due to the size of the fire that more resources were needed, ultimately prompting a total of 13 fire and EMS operations to the scene. The Long Island Rail Road was shut down in the area for a short time, as was Sheep Pasture Road.
“Due to the heavy volume of fire and no working hydrants on the property itself, multiple mutual aid was requested to the scene and for standby coverage from local fire departments,” wrote Patch blogger Andrew Tetreault.
According to Dennis Whittam, spokesman for the Terryville Fire Department, two firefighters were taken to nearby hospitals for evaluation and later released.
Whittam said that in the past, a guard shack and a large office building had burned down. This recent fire was in the main factory building, he said, adding that he thought the building might have to eventually be demolished because of the extensive damage.
The site, formerly occupied by the Lawrence Aviation Company, has been a source of controversy for years. The EPA designated the land as a Superfund Site and has set up a pump and treatment plant to remediate the groundwater but that will not be completed for at least another 15 years.
In January , giving planners more time to decide how the property should be zoned and for the completion of an environmental study. Bewilderingly, a company called Blue Green Farms put in a bid to build a fish farm on a portion of the site a few years ago.
As well as being the target of burglars – last July two men were arrested when they came from Patchogue allegedly to rob the warehouse and in November three men were accused of breaking into a building on the site and also arrested – two fires on the property in 2011 were deemed criminal. According to the Brookhaven Town Fire Marshal, those fires were classified as arson by the Suffolk County Police Arson Squad. Two firefighters were injured fighting the first of the two 2011 fires.
In the past residents near the property have brought up environmental worries associated with fires, although the EPA had said there was no risk in those past fires.
Representatives from the EPA and Brookhaven Town did not immediately respond for requests for comment.
Lon Cohen contributed to this report.