Firefighters battle a large mulch fire in Calverton through the night Sept. 2. Photo: Steve Beal

Multiple fire departments from across the area battled a large mulch fire in Calverton all night.

Riverhead Fire Department responded to the alarm shortly before 1 a.m. off Middle Country Road in Calverton, Riverhead Chief Joe Hartmann said this morning. At least 70 firefighters from more than a dozen area departments answered Riverhead’s call for mutual aid to fight fires that ignited in two large mulch piles at the site, Hartmann said. The departments responded with tanker trucks, brush trucks and ladder-tower trucks to battle the blaze.

The fire was declared under control by a RFD chief just before 6 a.m. but firefighters remained on scene to finish extinguishing fire and dealing with hot spots until after 7 a.m., according to radio reports.

Firefighters battled a large mulch fire in Calverton all night. Photo: Steve Beal

Hartmann said the site, immediately east of Guillo Enterprises on the south side of Middle Country Road, west of Edwards Avenue is owned by Steven Mezynieski of Southampton Excavation.

Land title records show the property owner is a limited liability company called Driftwood Family Farms, a company owned by the Mezynieski family. Driftwood Family Farms bought the former Zeh farm in 2012.

Driftwood applied to the Town of Riverhead for an excavation permit to remove more than 415,000 cubic yards of sand from the site — necessary, Mezynieski told the Town Board in May 2013, to eliminate slopes to make the land level enough for farming. Mezynieski asked the town for an agricultural exemption to waive the $2 per cubic yard fee imposed by the Riverhead town code for the exportation of soil.

Board members at the time were skeptical about the request for an agricultural exemption, since Mezynieski owns Southampton Excavation.

“There’s no hidden agenda,” Mezynieski told the board in 2013. “We’re not doing strip-mining. The end result is a finished farm.” The town board did not act on the excavation permit application.

Firefighters responded to a mulch fire at the site that December. Riverhead Fire Marshal Craig Zitek said at the time that Mezynieski was mulching to make topsoil.

According to State Department of Environmental Conservation records, Driftwood Family Farms applied for a mining permit for the site in May 2012, but never completed the application, which expired in 2018. The company also applied for a solid waste management permit there in December 2018, but withdrew the application as of April 2021, according to DEC online records.

According to records available on the town website, the planning board has not approved any site plan or application for the property in question.

Mezynieski is the owner of CMA Mine on Osborn Avenue in Calverton. The town is in litigation with CMA Mine and the State DEC over the company’s application to expand an existing mine 89 feet downward, which would penetrate the groundwater table.

This is a developing story. Check back for more information, which will be posted as it becomes available.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.