October 27, 2021
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Welcomes Home New York State Firefighters from Combatting California and Oregon Wildfires

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Governor Hochul Welcomes Home New York State Firefighters from Combatting California and Oregon Wildfires
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This Fire Season, 47 New Yorkers Traveled to Four States to Battle Seven Fires

Governor Kathy Hochul today welcomed home the final four New York State wildland firefighters, all of whom are Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Rangers, after completing their two-week assignments fighting wildfires in California and Oregon. These firefighters' missions wrap up a fire season during which New York firefighters traveled to four states to battle seven wildfires burning nearly 1.7 million acres of land. 

"Climate change has led to a summer of destructive wildfires that are still tearing through communities all across the country," Governor Hochul said. "New York's brave wildland firefighters are always ready to help protect people and property no matter how dangerous the situation, and I am so thankful for their efforts to make a difference among seemingly insurmountable odds. As New York's teams are back home safe and sound, we continue to send our support and prayers to all those still on the wildfires' front lines."

The latest firefighters to return home are from the ranks of DEC's Forest Rangers. Ranger Bryan Gallagher from Suffolk County served as a Facility Unit Leader at the Dixie Fire in California. Ranger Charles Kabrehl from Warren County also served at the Dixie Fire as a Task Force Leader. Ranger Joseph Hess from Saratoga County was deployed to work as a Receiving Distribution Manager at the Windy Fire in California, and Ranger Jeremy Oldroyd from Chenango County was a Task Force Leader at the Rough Patch Complex Fire in Oregon.

A total of 47 expert wildland firefighters were deployed by Governor Hochul this year to help battle fires in other states. In addition to firefighters from the ranks of DEC's Forest Rangers, expert firefighters from DEC's Divisions of Land and Forests, Operations, Fish and Wildlife, Materials Management, and Remediation were dispatched to fight fires out of state. Earlier this month, the Governor celebrated the return of a crew of wildland firefighters deployed to the KNP Complex Fire in California. Last month, the Governor welcomed home a crew of wildland firefighters who returned home from the Greenwood Fire in Minnesota, in addition to Forest Ranger Robbi Mecus, who helped battle the Dixie Fire in California. In August, Forest Ranger Michael Burkholder returned from fighting the Alder Creek and Trail Creek fires in Montana. In July, Ranger Timothy Carpenter returned  home after being deployed to the Bootleg Fire in Oregon.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Without knowing when or where they will be assigned, every year dozens of New York's wildland firefighters sign up to help protect communities from disastrous wildland fires in other states. DEC's Forest Rangers play valuable roles as experts in incident command, along with the trained wildland firefighters from across agency divisions and volunteers who answer the call to help get raging wildfires under control. I commend these firefighters for their bravery and dedication, especially in a fire season made so much worse this year by our changing climate."

California's Dixie Fire started on July 13, and burned more than 963,000 acres on the Plumas National Forest, Lassen National Forest, and Lassen Volcanic National Park, as well as land in five different counties. The Windy Fire in California was first detected on Sept. 9, and is currently burning more than 97,500 acres in the Tule River Indian Reservation and the Sequoia National Forest. The Rough Patch Fire in Oregon started on July 29, after more than 20 lightning strikes. It is burning more than 50,400 acres on the Umpqua National Forest. The Bootleg Fire in Oregon burned nearly 414,000 acres of land. The KNP Complex Fire in California scorched more than 88,000 acres. The Alder Creek Fire in Montana was responsible for nearly 37,000 acres of burned land. The Greenwood Fire in Minnesota kept firefighters busy covering nearly 27,000 acres of land.

Personnel and travel expenses for resources are paid back directly to New York by the U.S. Forest Service and reimbursed based on a mutual aid agreement between the states and federal land agencies.

In 1979, New York sent its first firefighting crew to assist western states with large wildfires. On average, one or two crews have been sent as needed to assist with wildfires every year since. In addition to helping contain wildfires and minimize damage, these crews gain valuable experience that can be utilized fighting wildfires and managing all-risk incidents in New York.

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474 - 8418
New York City: (212) 681 - 4640

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