October 3, 2023
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Welcomes Home New York State Firefighting Crew Deployed to Battle Wildland Fires in California

Governor Hochul Welcomes Home New York State Firefighting Crew Deployed to Battle Wildland Fires in California

DEC Firefighters Assisted Efforts to Contain Wildfires in Canada, California, Idaho, and Montana

Deployment is Ninth in Busy Fire Year

Deployment Photos Here

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the safe return of a crew of 20 wildland firefighters led by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers after a two-week mission in California. The crew assisted with firefighting efforts at the Smith River Complex Fire.

“When New Yorkers see others in need, we jump into action,” Governor Hochul said. “Multiple firefighting crews traveled to western states and Canada this summer and fall because wildfires were out of control and required experts to work on suppression efforts. I’m thankful for New York’s dedicated wildland firefighters willing to leave their friends and family to help strangers and I’m happy to welcome them back home.”

The Smith River Complex fire burned more than 94,500 acres and is currently 85 percent contained. The fire started with a lightning strike on Aug. 15. The New York State crew joined forces with 38 different crews from across the country. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Ranger Robert “Erik” Stratton served as the crew boss during the two-week assignment for nine additional Rangers, nine of DEC’s expertly trained wildland firefighters from the divisions of Lands and Forests, Fish and Wildlife, and Materials Management (Pesticides), and Office of Emergency Management, as well as a volunteer firefighter. These responders focused on wood chipping operations to reduce fuels on secondary fire lines.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Four DEC divisions were represented by this multi-talented crew and I thank them all for answering the call from our neighbors in the west. When DEC’s Forest Rangers and other trained wildland firefighters reached this fire, it was only 21 percent contained. Thanks in part to their expertise, and some help from the weather, communities are better protected and the fire is nearly contained.”

Returning Crew

Robert “Erik” Stratton – Crew Boss – Forest Ranger, Sullivan County

Hannah Bieber – Fish and Wildlife, Cortland County

Mark Brand – Forest Ranger, Essex and Hamilton counties

James Canevari Jr. – Fish and Wildlife, Jefferson County

Michael Chappell – Forest Ranger, Onondaga and Cayuga counties

Josh Choquette – Fish and Wildlife, Delaware County

Lawrence Day Jr. – Volunteer Firefighter

Evan Donegan – Forest Ranger, Warren County

Patrick Dormer – Forest Ranger, Ontario and Yates counties

Eric Egger – Lands and Forests, Steuben County

John Gullen – Forest Ranger, Columbia County

Nicholas Johnston –Emergency Management, Albany County

Dan Kinsley – Pesticides, Albany County

Robert Mackenzie – Lands and Forests, Ulster County

Melissa Milano – Forest Ranger, Hamilton County

Evan Nahor – Forest Ranger, Saratoga County

Hannah O’Connor – Forest Ranger, Essex and Franklin counties

Kyle Olson – Fish and Wildlife, Cortland County

Neilson Snye – Forest Ranger, Essex County

Timothy Yeatts – Lands and Forests, Ulster County

Wildland fires are not only devastating western states and Canada, these fires also have the potential to impact New York's air quality. During several days in June and July, many parts of New York were subject to Air Quality Health Advisories due to fine particulate matter enhanced by smoke from wildfires in Canada and the western United States.

Air Quality Health Advisories are issued when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter, are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. Exposure to fine particulate matter can cause short-term health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath. Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can also worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. New York State will continue to issue advisories whenever conditions warrant to help protect public health. Additional information on ozone and PM 2.5 is available on DEC's website and on the State Department of Health's website. To stay up-to-date with announcements from DEC, sign up to receive Air Quality Alerts through DEC Delivers: DEC's Premier Email Service.

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. The crew deployed today will be the ninth deployment of teams or individuals from DEC to assist in incident command or firefighting wildfires out of state. 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. All personnel and travel expenses for the New York crews are either paid directly by the U.S. Forest Service or reimbursed to New York State based on a mutual aid agreement between states and federal land agencies.

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

Contact us by phone:

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

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