Governor Cuomo today announced the safe return of the second 20-member crew of Forest Rangers, employees and volunteers from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation who battled three California fires on the Mad River Complex for the past two weeks. The Mad River fires have burned a total of 37,462 acres, now with 100-percent containment. Governor Cuomo dispatched a total of 44 New York firefighters to assist in containing the West Coast fires this summer.
“Once again, New York firefighters rose to the occasion and put their own safety on the line in order to help a neighbor in need,” Governor Cuomo said. “I'm thankful for their safe return and am proud of the bravery and professionalism they exhibited throughout this deployment."
The returning crew was part of a group of 95 firefighters which worked to contain the Mad River Complex Fires for the past two weeks. In late July 2015, lightning ignited the Mad River Complex fires in northwest California’s Six Rivers National Forest. The three fires are now contained, but dry conditions require crews to maintain a constant presence to keep the fire contained.
The crew assisted in creating control lines to contain the wildfires, clearing materials from the path of the fires and completing burnout operations in which crews purposefully set land within the control line on fire to remove the larger fire's fuel. The crew worked in rough terrain and endured daily high temperatures. Following its two-week assignment, the crew flew back to Harrisburg, PA, rested overnight, then boarded buses to return home this morning.
“This year may not have produced the largest fires in recent history, but it has definitely produced one of the worst seasons in regards to conditions,” DEC Acting Commissioner Marc Gerstman said. “I’m thankful to our DEC Forest Rangers, employees and New York volunteers for their courage and willingness to help in this time of need and happy to welcome them home today in their safe return.”
The returning crew includes:
- Forest Ranger Jeremy Oldroyd, Squad Boss, Broome County
- Forest Ranger Chris DiCintio, Squad Boss, Columbia County
- Forest Ranger Jacob DesLauries, Firefighter, Essex County
- Forest Ranger Robert Praczkajlo, Squad Boss, Essex County
- Forest Ranger Ian Kerr, Crew Boss, Fulton County
- Forest Ranger Corenne Black, Firefighter, St. Lawrence County
- Forest Ranger Chester Lunt, Firefighter, Suffolk County
- Forest Ranger Howard Kreft, Firefighter, Ulster County
- Christopher Sprague, DEC Lands and Forests, Firefighter, Chenango County
- Daniel Tuthill, Albany Pine Bush Preserve, Firefighter, Oneida County
- Joshua Utberg, DEC Fish and Wildlife, Firefighter, Saratoga County
- Anthony Leung, DEC Division of Water, Firefighter, Suffolk County
- James Canevari, DEC Lands and Forests, Sawyer, St. Lawrence County
- Stephanie Larkin, DEC Fish and Wildlife, Firefighter, St. Lawrence County
- Kraig Senter, Volunteer, Firefighter, Cayuga County
- Steven Brown, Volunteer, Sawyer, Delaware County
- Dale Robar, Volunteer, Firefighter, St. Lawrence County
- Paul Gallery, Volunteer, Schenectady County
- Hunter Morris, Volunteer, Firefighter, Schenectady County
- Samuel Griffis, Volunteer, Firefighter, Washington County
New York first sent a firefighting crew to assist western states in fighting large wildfires in 1979. Typically one or two crews are sent to assist each year. In addition to helping contain the western wildfires and minimize damage, these crews also gain valuable experience that can be used in fighting wildfires in New York. All personnel travel and administrative costs for the crew is paid directly by the U.S. Forest Service or reimbursed to the state.
To date, over 8.5 million acres have burned in the United States this year which is already more than triple the total in 2014. This year, the stage was set by an abnormally hot and dry June with record-long heat waves. In fact, June 2015 was the hottest on record for states of Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho and nearly all of these states are facing severe drought. Scientists and forecasters hope that the strong El Nino predicted for this year will provide relief and overcome the ridge of high pressure that has blocked moisture from reaching parts of the region.
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