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For Release: Monday, August 7, 2023

DEC Announces Forest Rangers Deployed to Assist with Efforts to Contain Wildfires in Idaho and Montana

Latest DEC Out-of-State Staff Deployment as DEC Water Engineers Return From Dam Safety Inspections in Vermont Following Floods

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that DEC Forest Rangers and expert wildland firefighters are being deployed to assist with efforts to contain the Ridge Creek Fire in the Idaho panhandle and the Niarada Fire in northwestern Montana. The latest Forest Ranger deployments come as a team of DEC engineers recently returned from performing dam safety inspections in Vermont after being directed by Governor Kathy Hochul to assist in the recovery from the devastating flooding that inundated the Northeast last month.

"New York State is known for lending a helping hand and providing resources to others when disaster strikes and DEC's Forest Rangers, engineers, and other expert staff continue to stand ready to assist our neighbors," Commissioner Seggos said. "New York is no stranger to the destruction wrought by extreme weather, climate change, and forest fires, and I applaud the selfless acts of those willing to step up and assist others in times of need."

New York State often deploys highly trained wildland firefighters to help battle wildfires as part of interstate and international firefighting compacts. The DEC Forest Ranger assisting in Montana will serve as a Task Force Leader and help coordinate the response to a fire that is currently estimated at 10,400 acres and zero percent contained. The fire on Bureau of Indian Affairs lands 12 miles west of Elmo, Montana, is currently threatening several structures. A pair of Rangers are also deploying to Idaho to assist with efforts to contain the Ridge Creek Fire north of Coeur D'alene.

DEC Forest Rangers have deployed three times this summer to assist with efforts to help contain wildfires in Canada, where more than 4,000 fires have burned an estimated 23.7 million acres.

Additionally, a pair of DEC engineers returned to New York on July 26, after spending a week in Vermont performing expedited visual safety inspections on non-hydroelectric and non-federally licensed dams following historic flooding last month.

Warren Shaw, Professional Engineer 1, and Ayotunde Adebajo, Assistant Engineer, both from DEC's Division of Water, were part of a team of nine engineers the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and DEC sent to Montpelier, Vermont, to assist in performing dam safety evaluations throughout the state. All seven NYPA members of the team also returned to New York safely after completing their work in Vermont.

New York State responded to Vermont Governor Phil Scott's request for assistance under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a national disaster relief system that allows states to send personnel, equipment, and commodities to assist with response and recovery efforts in other states. Established in 1996, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact is an all-hazards, all-discipline mutual aid compact that helps provide a consistent, coordinated response to disasters across the country and establishes a legal framework for reimbursement between states.

The DEC team inspected 45 high, significant, and low-hazard dams and traveled over 1900 miles while conducting their inspections. A good portion of the dams inspected were very remote, located off seasonal or non-paved roads damaged by flooding or required hiking significant distances along trails to gain access.

Overall, Vermont officials were successfully able to inspect over 400 dams with the help of staff from New York and Massachusetts in conjunction with their own staff from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VDEC).

DEC Engineer standing near dam for inspection

DEC Engineer standing near dam for inspection

DEC Engineers in off road vehicle

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