By Kathianne Boniello
A large brushfire cleared out a sizable section of grass and bushes from Udall's Cove last month, coming dangerously close to at least one home in the wetlands preserve and leaving Douglaston and Little Neck residents with an almost unobstructed view of Little Bay.
A spokesman for the city Fire Department said the Jan. 16 blaze was not considered suspicious. No injuries were reported, he said.
About 120 firefighters battled the flames for an hour before the two-alarm fire was brought under control, said Firefighter James Spollen of the Fire Department's press office.
The damaged area stretches from Sandhill Road near the southern tip of the Cove up to Arleigh Road in Douglaston, one resident said. Both Aurora's Pond, named for local activist Aurora Gareis, and the Little Neck Rail Road Station are near the southern end of Udall's Cove.
Zack Restivo, who lives with his family on Sandhill Road in Douglaston, said the fire came perilously close to the family's property on the edge of the cove but did not do any damage.
“You could just see the flames right in the back of the house,” he said. “My parents got everybody out, and the only thing they took was their wedding album.”
Restivo said firefighters were forced to battle the flames from Little Neck Parkway on the eastern side of the cove because there are no fire hydrants on Sandhill Road, which is closer to the area that burned.
Spollen said the lack of fire hydrants was “not a major problem.”
“It's not that unusual in Queens,” he said. “There are different ways of dealing with it.”
Udall's Cove is a wetlands preserve surrounding Little Bay that is bordered by Douglaston on its west side, Little Neck on the east, Great Neck, L.I., on the northeastern side and Northern Boulevard to the south.
Sitting directly in the North Atlantic Flyway, which is the name of the migratory path of birds on their way to Canada, Udall's Cove acts as an important breeding and feeding ground for several different types of birds.
Longtime activist and Little Neck resident Virginia Dent said she had not heard about the fire, but she noted natural brushfires are a regular occurrence in the cove that do not pose an environmental threat.
“The burning is part of a natural thing,” she said. “If it was started naturally, it's no problem for the cove.”
Dent, who lived on the cove in Douglaston for more than 20 years, said brushfires happened about once a year during her time there.
“As long as no one was hurt, it's OK,” she said. “I think every year we had a fire. They're nasty because they've got a lot of food – there's a lot of grass in there.”
Blackened tree stumps protruding from the snow-covered ground coupled with an emptiness in the formerly brush- and grass-filled cove, were the only evidence of last week's blaze.
Restivo said that before the fire “you wouldn't even be able to see the other side. The bushes were three-feet tall.”