Wildland fires do occur in New York State. Many areas in New York, particularly those that are heavily forested or contain large tracts of brush and shrubs, are prone to fires. The Adirondacks, Catskills, Hudson Highlands, Shawangunk Ridge, and Long Island Pine Barrens are examples of fire-prone areas.
We are concerned that many rural communities throughout the state may be at risk from wildfire damage. Wildfires may occur more frequently, with greater intensity, and with much more potential for damage because of a variety of factors, including:
- Accumulation of fuels, like dead branches, brush and leaf litter, due to natural events such as ice storms, or blow down, and the lack of significant fires in the recent past;
- Increased construction of homes and structures in the wildland/urban interface, increasing threats to life and property;
- Firefighting resources that are insufficient or overwhelmed to combat larger fires and protect structures.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers and the NY Firewise Council are working to inform New York State residents about wildland fire safety and prevention.
- NY has established a Firewise Community USA site in the Hamlet of Crasmoor, NY which is located amid the fire prone Shwangunk Ridge area;
- NY has established the NY Firewise Council bringing together State, Federal and NGO’s that play a role in wildfire prevention throughout the state. The Firewise Council develops a multi-agency approach to protecting the citizens of NY from wildfire loss;
- NY has developed an educational campaign to educate the residents of fire prone areas, materials such as presentations, brochures, posters, banners, educational handouts, etc. These materials can be used at a variety of events including: fairs, town hall meetings, community days, Fire Department functions, etc.
2012 Fire Season
The 2012 Wildfire season was particularly busy due to the lack of significant snowfall and the prolonged periods with lack of precipitation. The NY Forest Rangers and Fire Departments throughout the state responded to 4,523 wildfires consuming nearly 2,100 acres. Three wildfires burned greater than 100 acres with the largest being the Manorville fire in Eastern Long Island that burned 980 acres of pitch pine-scrub oak thicket. Unfortunately during this fire an engine crew was burned over when their engine became immobilized driving through the thick brush and trees. All three firefighters from the Manorville Fire Department survived the burnover with minor to severe burns.
2012 was also the most destructive wildfire season for loss of structures in almost a century, with nearly 70 structures lost. In one day at the Tammarack fire in Ulster County, 42 structures were destroyed including two permanent residences. The wildfire was contained at 52 acres but the cause of the wildfire was residential brush burning that ignited an old hotel resort, and eventually spread to the seasonal bungalows near the resort. Large devastating wildfires in the Wildland/Urban Interface accounted for a majority of the structures lost, however, throughout the state smaller wildfires destroyed garages, outbuildings, and other structures as well, with many more structures that were threatened but not destroyed.
Due to the extraordinarily dry period NY experienced during the summer of 2012 the Governor passed emergency regulations to extend the no open burning period that is annually observed from March 15th to May 15th. The emergency regulations started in early July and extended until the 15th of October, this extension highlighted the awareness that NY residents and officials have to the potential for devastating human caused wildfires.
In 2012 the NY Firewise trailer was completed, as a completely self sufficient educational outreach platform the trailer is intended to be shared with multiple agencies that operate around the state. The trailer was deployed at 4 events throughout the fall and winter of 2012 and has been scheduled at 6 events in the spring/summer of 2013.