Firefighting Team of DEC Employees and Volunteers Battled 3,500-Acre Blaze
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today welcomed home a team of 20 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation employees and volunteers who helped battle and contain the Gibralter Ridge Fire in the Kootenai National Forest near Eureka, Montana. This is the second New York firefighting crew dispatched to fight wildfires in western states this summer.
“New York is proud to welcome home this team of brave men and women who have been battling wildfires out west for the last two weeks,” Governor Cuomo said. “Helping neighbors in their time of need is the New York way, and I commend our courageous volunteers and Forest Rangers for stepping up and helping to save lives and natural resources on this mission.”
When the New York team arrived in Montana, approximately 80 firefighters and support personnel were assigned to the fire, but that number rose to 378 as the wildfire continued to spread. Currently, the fire is only 19 percent contained and is expected to burn until late September.
The firefighting team is made up of DEC employees and volunteers, including State Forest Rangers, that joined crews from other states to help battle the wildfires. When the New York crew arrived, they were the first of several crews to work on the Gibralter Ridge Fire, which had started the day before. The fire quickly increased to 3,500 acres but has remained at that size for more than a week. Three-hundred-and-seventy-eight firefighters and support personnel continue to contain that fire.
The returning crew of New York Forest Rangers, employees and volunteers from across the state include:
- Jeremy Oldroyd, Forest Ranger, Crew Boss, Broome County
- Chris DiCintio, Forest Ranger, Columbia County
- Joseph Pries, Forest Ranger, Nassau County
- Aimee Bills, Forest Ranger, Herkimer County
- Russell Martin, Forest Ranger, Ulster County
- Robert Stratton, Forest Ranger, Sullivan County
- Jason Scott, Forest Ranger, Hamilton County
- Arthur Perryman, Forest Ranger, Warren County
- Donald Nelson, Pesticide Control Specialist 2, Onondaga County
- Christopher Sprague, Senior Forester, Chenango County
- Harry McDaniel, DEC Volunteer Firefighter, Chenango County
- Lawrence Day, DEC Volunteer Firefighter, Steuben County
- John Wernet, DEC Volunteer Firefighter, Suffolk County
- Daniel Gaidasz, Senior Forester, Saratoga County
- Matthew Vincent, DEC Volunteer Firefighter, Essex County
- Jonathan Cleveland, Forestry Technician, Allegany County
- Stephanie Larkin, Marine Biologist, Jefferson County
- Mark Solan, Pesticide Control Specialist, Saratoga County
- Tyler Briggs, DEC Volunteer Firefighter, Albany County
- Frederick Hamilton, Wildlife Biologist, Suffolk County
The crew created control lines with hand tools, chainsaws and intentional fire to contain the wildfire and protect the several residences that were threatened. They worked in rough mountainous terrain and endured daily temperatures hovering close to 90 degrees. Currently, the fire is 19 percent contained at 3,554 acres and is expected to burn until late September.
“I commend our staff for their bravery over these past two weeks in helping to contain this wildfire and protect precious natural resources and private homes,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “All New Yorkers should be proud of work our fire crews do to battle these blazes. For nearly 40 years, New York has stood ready to willing to assist our sister states in their time of need.”
The first team of firefighters that began their 14-day assignment in Montana on July 24, arrived back in the Capital Region on Tuesday, August 8.
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.
Last year, DEC sent 33 firefighters, including one 20-person crew, to several western and southern states as well as Canada. In addition to helping contain the national wildfires and minimize damage, these crews also 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.