Deployment is the Latest in a Busy Fire Year with DEC Firefighters Previously Assisting Canada, California, Idaho, and Montana
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that a crew of 20 wildland firefighters led by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers is traveling to California where they will assist firefighting efforts underway at the Smith River Complex fire. A Forest Ranger will serve as the crew boss during the two-week assignment for nine other Rangers and 10 of DEC’s expertly trained wildland firefighters from the Divisions of Lands and Forests, Fish and Wildlife, Pesticides, and Emergency Management. "Whether it’s north of the border to Canada, or across the United States to California, New York always stands at the ready to assist those in need,” Governor Hochul said. “While summer rains have kept New York fires at bay, the impacts from this year’s wildfire season are like none we’ve ever seen before. I commend our brave Forest Rangers for helping New York answer the call for assistance.”
The Smith River Complex fire burned more than 86,000 acres and is currently 21 percent contained. The fire started with a lightning strike on August 15. The New York State crew will join forces with 38 different crews from across the country. 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. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "DEC Forest Rangers and other trained wildland firefighters bring a wealth of knowledge to assist our neighbors to the west. DEC's wildland firefighters are always prepared to help, serving both on the fire line and behind the scenes as experts in incident command and we wish them a safe and successful assignment in California.” Wildland fires are not only devastating western states and Canada, but they 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.