Mattituck Fire Dept. extinguishes car and brush fire; vehicle operator charged with DWI

A motorist charged with driving while intoxicated allegedly swerved off the road in Mattituck, inadvertently igniting a blaze that drew more than 20 firefighters to the scene last Tuesday.

Mattituck Fire Department chief Jim Cox, along with first assistant chief Bobby Haas and second assistant chief Steven Ficner responded to a call regarding a brush fire on Marratooka Road. The three chiefs, along with Southold Town Police officers, quickly discovered the blaze was actually a burning vehicle in the heavily wooded area.

While waiting for backup, Mr. Haas and Mr. Ficner donned their gear and battled the blaze with fire extinguishers. Once the first engine arrived, the crew started dousing the blue 2010 Ford Explorer — at that point fully engulfed in flame — with water pumped from a nearby fire hydrant. A second engine followed, and its crew stopped the the brush fire from spreading into the nearby residential area.

Mr. Cox said it took the department between 60 and 90 minutes to fully extinguish the blaze.

“Every time we put the car out it would light back up,” Mr. Cox said. He added that the damage to the surrounding woods was “very minor” with burning contained to “leaves and brush on the ground, [and] a couple of the trees right in the vicinity of the car.”

The emergency response required more than 20 members of the Mattituck Fire Department and approximately 10,000 gallons of water to extinguish, which from the chief’s perspective, made the fiery scene “pretty uneventful.”

“It was about normal,” Mr. Cox said. “You get an the scene, things are a little hectic in the beginning, then it pans out.”

According to Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley, the vehicle operator, Philip Norkelun, 76, of Riverhead, “reported that [he was heading] southbound on Marratooka Road when an animal ran out in front of him, causing him to swerve into the driveway of a [home]. He struck and damaged some of the [homeowner’s] shrubs. [Mr. Norkelun] said he was trying to put the car in reverse and get off of the guy’s yard and the vehicle caught fire. He said that he jumped out of the passenger window before the vehicle became fully engulfed in flames.

“As [officers] were talking to [Mr. Norkelun], they realized that he’s got bloodshot eyes and he’s a little unsteady on his feet and he had the oder of an alcoholic beverage,” Mr. Flatley continued. “They ended up doing field sobriety tests and arresting him for DWI.”

Mr. Cox said Mattituck Fire Department personnel transported Mr. Norkelun to Peconic Bay Medical Center for “just for precaution.”

Mr. Flatley said there is currently no investigation regarding how the vehicle fire began last Tuesday.

Mr. Norkelun was arraigned and released. He is due to appear at the Southold Town Justice Court April 5 at 9 a.m.

Source link