Sunday, April 24, 2016

Across NY: Major wildfire near Ellenville, Ulster County

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed additional state emergency personnel to the wildfire at Sam's Point Preserve near Ellenville in Ulster County. State and local first responders are currently working to build a perimeter around the blaze, which has consumed approximately 300 acres to date, and continues to move south in a narrow band within the preserve.
“State emergency personnel have been working around the clock to contain this wildfire and protect the safety of New Yorkers,” Governor Cuomo said. “We continue to work with all local partners to stop this fire in its tracks, and I urge residents to stay clear of the affected area and remain alert and informed.”

In Ulster County, over forty state personnel from Department of Environmental Conservation, Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, State Police, Office of Fire Prevention and Control, and Office of Emergency Management are assisting local first responders as they battle the fire.

Since the fire began Saturday, a State Police helicopter has completed approximately twenty water-dropping operations and two State Police helicopters will continue these operations today, with a third on standby for Medivac operations if needed. The two helicopters are equipped with 'Bambi Buckets' – which can carry 250 gallons of water. The water is taken from local ponds or lakes and dropped on the hottest parts of the fire.

Additionally, approximately 80 personnel from thirteen local fire departments and EMS services are actively engaged in battling the fire.

NYS Resources Deployed:

  • NYS DEC/RANGERS: 14 personnel / 1 dozer
  • NYS OEM: One regional staff
  • NYS OFPC: Two regional staff
  • NYSP: One trooper / three helicopters (two for fire suppression and water drops) staged at Ellenville Airport, one on standby at Stewart for Medivac.
  • NYS Parks Mohonk Preserve: Four personnel
  • NYS Parks Minnewaska: 15 personnel

County Resources Deployed:
  • Ulster County: One OEM / two fire personnel
  • Local Fire Departments: 13 departments (75 personnel)
  • EMS Mobile Life Support and Ellenville Rescue: Five personnel (four EMTs / one Medic)

The Sam's Point Preserve, located on the highest section of the Shawangunk Mountains, is difficult to battle due to the mountainous terrain. For safety reasons, both Sam's Point Preserve and Minnewaska State Park will remain closed today.

Open burning of debris is the largest single cause of spring wildfires in the state. When temperatures are warmer and grasses and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily and be further fueled by winds and the lack of green vegetation. Forecasted conditions include low humidity, gusty winds and higher temperatures, which can exacerbate sparks and small flames and lead to a larger and more dangerous fire.

Critical weather conditions indicate that there may be additional brush fires throughout the state, as most of New York has been categorized as moderate to high risk 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:   
Since 2009, New York State has enforced a residential brush-burning ban for towns with fewer than 20,000 residents from March 16 through May 14, the period when most wildfires occur. Some towns, primarily in and around the Adirondack Park and Catskill Park, are designated “fire towns,” and open burning is prohibited year-round in these municipalities unless an individual or group has a written permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Violators of the open burning regulation are subject to both criminal and civil enforcement actions, with a minimum fine of $500 for a first offense. In the six-year period since the ban was enacted, spring fires per year decreased by 33.4 percent, from 3,297 in 2009 to 1,649 in 2015.

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.