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For Release: Wednesday, August 11, 2021

DEC Deploys Third Forest Ranger to Assist in Ongoing Efforts to Fight Western Wildland Fires

Second Dispatched Ranger Returns from Fighting Montana's Alder Creek and Trail Creek Fires

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that a third DEC Forest Ranger is being deployed to assist in ongoing efforts to fight wildland fires in California. In addition, DEC welcomed home Forest Ranger Michael Burkholder at the end of a two-week assignment fighting the Alder Creek and Trail Creek fires in Montana. In July, DEC Forest Ranger Timothy Carpenter returned home after helping battle the Bootleg Fire in Oregon. The Bootleg Fire has burned more than 413,000 acres and is now approximately 96 percent contained.

Commissioner Seggos said, "Whether on the fire line or supervising a team, New York's Forest Rangers are among the very best wildland firefighters. I'm consistently impressed by our Rangers' bravery and willingness to help others. DEC's expert wildland firefighters are ready to volunteer no matter where they're needed and I thank them for their service."

Ranger Burkholder, from Chenango County, began his assignment July 26, when he joined hundreds of federal, state, and local fire agencies battling the Alder Creek Fire in Montana. The Alder Creek Fire started on July 8 about seven miles west of Wise River in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Because of its proximity to hundreds of homes and buildings, this fire was considered the nation's highest wildland firefighting priority. Fire crews are now concentrating their efforts on structure protection for cabins and other sites along the river and Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway. The Alder Creek Fire is currently about 10 percent contained, and fire teams in this area are also managing the 35,000-acre Trail Creek Fire.

This week, DEC is deploying a third Forest Ranger for a two-week assignment to the Dixie Fire in Quincy, California. The Dixie Fire has burned 500,000 acres to-date and is the second largest wildfire in California history. It has destroyed at least 400 structures and threatens thousands of others. Nearly 6,000 firefighters are battling this blaze, which is about 21 percent contained.

Wildland fires in western states are not only devastating to the western U.S., they are also impacting New York's air quality. Last month on July 20, the entire state of New York was under an Air Quality Health Advisory due to fine particulate matter caused by fires in Canada and the western U.S. Two weeks ago, an Air Quality Health Advisory was issued for the New York City Metro region. 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.

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. 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.

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.

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