Governor Cuomo Welcomes New York Firefighting Team Home From Montana Wildfires

Dispatches Second Crew to Help Battle Blaze in Western States.

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NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Photo by: Governor's Press Office, via Flickr.

Albany, NY - August 9, 2017 - 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 Sunrise Fire in the Lolo National Forest in Montana. The Governor also dispatched a second 20-member New York firefighting crew to western states to continue battling wildfires in the region.
"As we welcome home the brave men and women who have been battling these wildfires, we give our best wishes to the second crew on their way to continue our efforts to help protect and preserve communities out west," Governor Cuomo said. "New Yorkers are proud to lend a hand to neighbors in need, and I commend our courageous volunteers and Forest Rangers for stepping up and helping to save lives and natural resources on the west coast."  
The first team of firefighters that began their 14-day assignment in western Montana on July 24, arrived back in the Capital Region on Tuesday, August 8. The volunteers and DEC staff, including members of the State's Forest Rangers, joined crews from other states to help battle the wildfires. When the New York crew arrived, there were approximately 80 firefighters and support personnel assigned to the fire, which soon increased to more than 500 as the wildfire continued to spread.
The returning crew of New York Forest Rangers, employees and volunteers from across the state include:
  • Charles Kabrehl, Forest Ranger, Crew Boss, Warren County
  • Robert Praczkajlo, Forest Ranger, Essex County
  • Patrick Dormer, Forest Ranger, Ontario County
  • Joseph Bink, Forest Ranger, Delaware County
  • Justin Thaine, Forest Ranger, Allegany County
  • Corenne Black, Forest Ranger, St. Lawrence County
  • David Nally, Forest Ranger, Schenectady County
  • Joseph Hess, Forest Ranger, Saratoga County
  • Howard Thomes, Forest Ranger Jefferson County
  • Chester Lunt, Forest Ranger, Onondaga County
  • Robert MacKenzie, DEC Lands & Forests, Dutchess County
  • Steven Jackson, DEC Volunteer Firefighter, Albany County
  • Timothy Yeatts, DEC Fish & Wildlife, Onondaga County
  • Joshua Choquette, DEC Fish & Wildlife, Deleware County
  • Eric Kasza, DEC Volunteer Firefighter, Saratoga County
  • Eric Hepperle, Volunteer Firefighter, Greene County
  • Daniel Welc, DEC Lands & Forests, Chenango County
  • James Canevari, DEC Fish & Wildlife, St. Lawrence County
  • Aaron Graves, DEC Lands & Forests, St. Lawrence
  • William Fonda, DEC Volunteer Firefighter, Nassau County
The team assisted in creating control lines to contain the wildfire, clear materials from the path of the fire and protect the 81 residences that were threatened. The crew worked in rough mountainous terrain and endured daily temperatures hovering close to 90 degrees. Crews worked for two weeks to contain the 13,488-acre wildfire outside Superior, Montana, which is believed to have been sparked by a lightning strike. Currently, the fire is only 15 percent contained and is expected to burn until late September.
The second crew dispatched from New York is currently en route to Montana and could be sent to any of the more than 40 forest fires currently burning in western states.
"I commend our staff for their bravery over these past two weeks in helping to contain large wildfires and protect precious natural resources and private homes," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "All New Yorkers should be proud of work our fire crews did to battle these blazes and should join me in wishing our newest crew a safe journey as they continue to assist our sister states in their time of need."
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 states and Canada. In addition to helping contain the western 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.