State and Local Emergency Personnel Actively Fighting Wildfire in Altona Flat Rock That Has Consumed Up to 300 Acres
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed additional state emergency personnel to the scene of a wildfire burning in Altona Flat Rock, Clinton County, that began on Thursday afternoon. Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Roger Parrino are overseeing fire suppression operations being led by expertly trained State Forest Rangers in coordination with other state and local first responders. New York's Forest Rangers are highly trained in wildfire fighting and regularly assist other states with fire suppression efforts during wildfire season, and have been working to build a perimeter around the blaze—which has consumed up to 300 acres—since yesterday.
"State emergency personnel are working around the clock to contain the wildfire and protect New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo said. "New York stands ready to provide whatever resources these brave men and women need to extinguish the flames and keep our communities safe. I urge all residents to stay clear of the affected area and remain alert and informed."
More than 40 state personnel from the National Guard, Department of Environmental Conservation, Office of Fire Prevention and Control, Office of Emergency Management, State Police, and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision are on standby or working closely with local firefighters to contain and put out the fires. Fire departments from Clinton County, Franklin County, and Canada are on the scene working closely with state personnel to contain the fire as well.
New York State personnel and resources for this response include:
- National Guard: Eight soldiers and two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, each equipped with a 660 gallon Bambi bucket, are en route
- Department of Environmental Conservation/Forest Rangers: 22 personnel equipped with a wildland fire trailer on site to supply the two crews assigned along with personally issued gear to each ranger, including hoses, portable pumps and hand tools needed to combat the blaze
- State Police: Two personnel and two Huey helicopters, each equipped with a Bambi Bucket for fire suppression. Each bucket holds 200 gallons of water. State Police have also deployed a fuel truck for refueling operations.
- DHSES' Office of Emergency Management: One Assistant Commissioner, one Regional Coordinator and five Incident Management personnel with IMT trailers and Command Post support equipment
- DHSES' Office of Fire Prevention and Control: One Deputy State Fire Administrator and two regional staff
- Department of Corrections and Community Supervision: two inmate crews to assist firefighters and forest rangers to build a perimeter around the fire
- Department of Transportation: One bulldozer and operators are on scene
Additionally, four pallets of water and one 50kwp generator have been provided from the state's regional stockpile for firefighting crews.
Flat Rock State Forest Closed to Access
Flat Rock State Forest will remain closed until the fire is declared out by the DEC Forest Rangers. The State Forest is comprised of jack pine and huckleberry -highly flammable vegetation that is part of this fire-dependent natural community. Due to these fuel types, flare ups are likely after the fire is contained, and the fire will not be considered out until fire suppression operations are completed.
Reducing Wildfire Risk
Open burning is the single greatest cause of wildfires in New York. When temperatures increase and the past fall's debris and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily and be further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation. Also, burning leaves and grass is banned in New York State year-round. DEC encourages New Yorkers following the following tips to avoid staring wildfires.
At this time, most of New York has been categorized as moderate for fires by the National Weather Service. Fires may start easily and could become dangerous if not extinguished while small. To view an updated map of fire danger ratings in New York, visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/68329.html.
Of New York's 30.9 million acres, 18.9 million is forested land that are at risk for wildfires. There is also a vast amount of open-space, non-forested lands with significant wildfire potential. More than 1,700 fire departments across the state respond to an average of 5,300 wildfires each year. In 2016, DEC Forest Rangers extinguished 185 wildfires that burned a total of 4,191 acres.
Wildfire Safety Tips
Wildfires often spread quickly, putting New Yorkers, their families, their properties, and their businesses in danger. However, there are many ways to prepare yourself and your home for such emergencies.
Prepare Yourself and Plan Ahead
Make a family emergency plan and practice escape routes away from your home, by car and by foot. Visit the Citizen Preparedness Corps website for steps that families can take to create a household plan that includes protecting children, pets and preparing a go kit. New Yorkers should have some basic supplies on hand in the event of a disaster or emergency.
Install smoke alarms on each floor of your home and change the batteries twice per year when you change your clocks for daylight savings time. Keep fire extinguishers in your home, and teach every member of the family how to use them. Teach children about fire safety and keep matches and lighters out of reach. Store emergency phone numbers and information in the cell phones of each of the members of your family. New Yorkers are also encouraged to sign up for NY-Alert at nyalert.gov, which will send a notification about red flag warnings or conditions.
Precautions to Take
- Make Home Address Visible: Make sure the number of your home address is clearly visible on your house so that emergency personnel can find it from the road, and ensure that fire vehicles can access your home easily.
- List Your Belongings: Review your homeowner's insurance policy and make a list of the contents of your home.
- Help Your Neighbors: Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety, and consider how you could help neighbors with special needs.
Prepare Your Property
- Inspect your home's exterior at least once a year, and make outdoor spring cleaning a habit. Remove all dry grass, brush, and dead leaves within 30 feet of your home. Space trees and shrubs at least ten feet apart. Reduce the number of trees in heavily wooded areas, get rid of old tree stumps, and remove any vines growing on the side of your home.
- Mow your lawn regularly.
- Stack firewood and scrap wood piles away from any buildings and clear away flammable vegetation close to the piles.
- Clean chimneys and stove pipes, and check their screens.
- Avoid letting flammable materials like rags and newspapers accumulate near buildings or utilities.
- Prune the lower branches of tall trees to within six feet of the ground to keep surface fires from spreading into tree tops.
- Clear pine needles, leaves, or other debris from your roof and gutters. Remove tree limbs or dead branches hanging over your roof, and ask your power company to clear branches from power lines.
- Keep a hose attached to a working outside faucet that can be used to put out a small fire on or around your home when temperatures are above freezing.
Prevent Wildfires from Occurring
- Follow local burning laws. Open burning is the single greatest cause of wildfires across New York State. Familiarize yourself with DEC's open burning regulations.
- Contact your local fire department for further information on fire laws.
- Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
- Check on local restrictions on campfires if you are planning to go camping or spend time in the woods. Don't leave a campfire unattended, and make sure the fire is completely out before leaving it.
- Dispose of smoking materials and matches properly.
- Take extra care in dry grass. Don't park or idle your vehicle on it, and don't set hot gas-powered equipment in it.
Know What to Do When a Wildfire Occurs
- Call 9-1-1 if you see a wildfire. Don't assume somebody else has called the fire department, and do not panic. Describe the location of the fire, speak slowly and clearly, and answer any questions from the dispatcher.
- Establish lines of communication with local authorities and fire departments. Follow your local emergency personnel on Facebook and Twitter, and know how to reach them via phone and in person.
- Wear protective clothing and footwear.
Prepare for evacuation
- Shut off natural gas, propane, and fuel oil supplies at the source.
- Remove firewood, fuel, and debris from your yard.
- Close windows and doors in your home.
- If you are evacuating by car, include your go-kit and mementos. If evacuation is imminent, put your pets in the car and be ready to leave quickly.
- Turn on outside lights to make the house more visible in heavy smoke.
Terms to Know
- Surface Fire: fire that spreads via leaf litter and low-level vegetation, like bushes
- Crown Fire: fire that "crowns," or spreads to the top branches of trees, and can spread at an incredible pace through the top of a forest
- Jumping Fire: burning branches and leaves carried by wind sometimes start distant fires; fire can "jump" over roads and rivers
- Fire Weather Alert: a watch issued by the U.S. National Weather Service to alert authorities that Red Flag conditions may develop
- Red Flag Warning: a warning issued by the U.S. National Weather Service to indicate that a fire would spread rapidly if it broke out due to low humidity, high winds, and low moisture.
To report a suspected wildfire, call 9-1-1 immediately. The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services reminds New Yorkers to have a family evacuation plan and a go kit ready for emergencies. Find a list of emergency supplies here.
For wildfire safety information click here.
For information on how to protect your home, visit the Department of Environmental Conservation here.
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