Wildfire destroys 27 structures in Catskill Mountains

Posted on Categories UncategorizedTags

Most of the structures were unoccupied bungalows primarily used in the summer

Above: Fire in South Fallsburg, NY. Screenshot from the video below.

A vegetation fire in South Fallsburg, New York grew to a five alarm incident that destroyed 27 structures Wednesday. The fire spread into two bungalow colonies burning seasonal buildings that were unoccupied at the time.

The fire was fought by 300 firefighters, mostly volunteers, from 39 departments in four counties. By the time they first arrived it was already moving through both colonies.

South Fallsburg is in the Catskill Mountains about 40 air miles northwest of New York City.

Mirriam-Webster defines a bungalow as “a one-storied house with a low-pitched roof; also : a house having one and a half stories and usually a front porch.” In the Catskills these homes are primarily used in the summer.

The video below reportedly shows the fire shortly after it started and began to approach the bungalows.

Below is another video shot at the scene of the fire.

Sky lanterns possible cause of fires that burned 4 homes and a boat dock

Sky lantern
Sky lantern release in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo by Takeaway.

Sky lanterns are being looked at as the possible cause for at least two fires over the Fourth of July holiday, one in New York and another in Michigan.

Investigators are considering sky lanterns as a possible cause for a fire that spread to four homes in Highland Park, Michigan Tuesday morning.

And in Yates County, New York, Sheriff Ron Spike, thinks a sky lantern caused a fire that burned a portion of a boat dock on Keuka Lake July 4. Boaters on the lake notified residents who were able to suppress the fire by dumping lake water onto it.

Below is an excerpt from an article at the Chronicle Express:

…Investigation by deputies and the fire chief concluded that based on debris at the scene that a sky lantern someone had launched to celebrate July 4 had landed on the dock, causing the fire. Spike says the property owner is William Goulburn, of Rochester, and the damage is over $1,000…

Sky lanterns are made with plastic or lightweight paper and are lifted into the air when burning material is ignited at the base making it lighter than air. They can travel for more than a mile, whichever way the wind blows. Sometimes the fuel is still burning when the device contacts a structure, a tree, or lands on the ground. Usually they are not retrieved and become someone else’s trash.

The dangerous devices are banned in 29 states and many counties and cities.

New York: wildfire in Sam’s Point Preserve

Above: The red and yellow dots represent the locations of heat detected at 1:50 p.m. on April 25, 2016 by a satellite over the wildfire that is burning two miles southeast of Ellenville, New York.

(UPDATED at 11:08 p.m. EDT, April 28, 2016)

This will be our last update for this wildfire southeast of Ellenville, NY unless something very unexpected occurs.


(UPDATED at 3:25 p.m. EDT April 27, 2016)

Firefighters have mapped the Sam’s Point Fire just southeast of Ellenville, New York and are now calling it 1,574 acres. It was slowed Tuesday by damp weather after being very active on Monday. Today will be sunny and drier with the relative humidity dropping to 29 percent by late afternoon. That and the 6 to 8 mph winds out of the west combined with a Haines Index of 5 could result in more fire movement this evening.

Approximately 226 personnel are assigned to the fire.

The fire is being managed by a Type 2 Incident Management Team, Kevin Slade (NYS DEC DFP) and Jim Prunoske (NYS DHSES IMT).

Sam's Point Fire,
Sam’s Point Fire, April 25, 2016. NYS DEC photo.
Sam's Point Fire,
Sam’s Point Fire, April 24, 2016. NYS DEC photo.


(UPDATED at 8:10 p.m. EDT April 26, 2016)

As of Tuesday morning the Sam’s Point Fire had burned 2,000 acres in Ulster County 21 miles west of Poughkeepsie. The fire was very active Monday afternoon with 35 to 40-foot flames rapidly chewing up an additional 1,200 acres. The fire is on land managed by Minnewaska State Park.

According to News12, fog and rain today, Tuesday, are helping firefighters.

The Ellenville, New York Fire Department apparently does not often have to deal with large vegetation fires like the one currently burning in Sam’s Point Preserve. According to the TimesHerald-Record they are asking for donations.

Anyone who has a chainsaw they do not use or need and would like to donate it, is asked to bring it to the Pioneer Fire Company, 73 Center St., in Ellenville on Tuesday. Also, the Rolling V Bus Company on Canal Street in Ellenville is doing a “Stuff the Bus” drive for the firefighters from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesday. Items such as water, socks, toilet paper and work gloves are needed.

It is depressing that a fire department has to beg for these items.

Below, photos from Sunday and Monday:


(Originally published at 6:36 p.m. EDT April 25, 2016) 

A wildfire that has been burning since April 23 in Sam’s Point Preserve just southeast of Ellenville, New York has grown to about 800 acres. The fire in Ulster County 21 miles west of Poughkeepsie is being fought by about 110 personnel from thirteen local fire departments, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, and NY State Parks. Two helicopters operated by the State Police have been dropping water on the blaze, 250 gallons at a time.

According to the Governor’s office, the fire is being managed by the State Incident Management Team, which integrated into the State Forest Rangers, and an a Structure Protection Group.

fire Ellenville
Fire near Ellenville, at approximately 5 p.m. April 25. Photo by Jorja Roman.

New York does is not often presented with the challenge of suppressing large wildfires. The state apparently has a unique system that, if one is to believe literally the press releases, the Governor either chooses to or is required to become involved in making management decisions about staffing the incidents. Or perhaps the Governor just likes to have his name associated with mitigating an emergency.

Last year in early May the Roosa Gap Fire in the same general area, about 5 miles south of Ellenville, burned over 2,400 acres. That was the first time in recent memory that an air tanker had been used in the state.

Roosa Gap Fire near Summitville, NY

(UPDATED at 10:18 a.m. EDT, May 6, 2015)

Two New York Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopters are assigned to the fire.  U.S. Army National Guard photo by Col. Richard Goldenberg.
Two New York Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopters and two helicopters from the New York State Police are being used on the fire. U.S. Army National Guard photo by Col. Richard Goldenberg.

From Syracuse.com:

Ellenville, N.Y. — A wildfire at the edge of the Catskills mountains in New York state has burned 2,400 acres and is still spreading, according to news reports.

The state brought in an air tanker — the first time one has been used in New York, according to the Middletown Times Herald-Record. In addition, two Blackhawk helicopters with 660-gallon buckets have been sent to the fire, the state said.

The Shawangunk fire is about 75 percent contained, the manager for the state’s response team told the The Journal News. Fire officials told the newspaper that no homes had been burned, and they believed the fire was started by a homeowner burning debris, which is illegal in New York.


(UPDATED at 1:05 p.m. EDT, May 5, 2015)

The Roosa Gap Fire in Ulster County in New York state has grown to about 1,700 acres, requiring the evacuation of some homes in the Cragsmoor area along Route 52. There are reports the fire has jumped the highway.


(Originally published at 5:25 p.m. EDT, May 4, 2015)

Summitville Fire map 331 pm May 4, 2015
Map showing the approximate location of a wildfire that started near Summitville, NY. The red squares indicate heat that was detected by a satellite at 3:31 p.m. ET, May 4, 2015. The red polygon is the approximate location of the fire based on local reports and the satellite data.

A fire that was reported Monday morning had burned about 800 acres east and northeast of Summitville, New York by 4 p.m. ET. Recordonline reports that 15 homes are being evacuated in the Walker Valley area (map) along Route 52 in Ulster County.

Sullivan County Public Safety Commissioner Dick Martinkovic said at least 24 fire companies from three counties – Sullivan, Orange and Ulster – are assisting in fighting the fire. There are no reports of structures burning since it has been primarily located in rural areas of the Roosa Gap and Shawangunk Ridge State Forests. However that could change when it approaches Route 52.

On Monday the fire was pushed by sustained winds of 10 mph with gusts up to 20 mph.

New York, along with several other states in the area, is under a Red Flag Warning today.

The weather should offer some relief on Tuesday, with wind speeds between 1 and 3 mph, more than 80 percent cloud cover, and a 42 percent chance of rain.

New York firefighters want fire lanes maintained

Manorville fire engine

Firefighters in Suffolk County in New York say the lack of maintenance of fire lanes in forested areas hampers their ability to access wildfires. Their brush trucks are designed to crash through wooded areas but dead trees, logs, and high stumps at times prevent them from getting to a fire, or can cause them to become stuck on a stump.

Below is an excerpt from Riverhead Local:

Angry firefighters: policymakers ‘have no clue’ about dangers of battling wildfires in Flanders pine barrens

The two men driving the brush trucks that got stuck on dead trees in the Flanders brush fire Saturday are angry about the conditions on publicly-owned preserved lands in Flanders. But they’re even angrier about the statements made by government officials responsible for those conditions in the days following the small wildfire that burned 10 acres of woodlands.

On Monday morning, County Executive Steve Bellone called a press conference in Hauppauge to announce the establishment of a permanent brush truck training course on 25 vacant acres of county land in Yaphank.

“We need to…make sure that our fire personnel, as they go in to do their work, have what they need and have the training that they need to combat those wildfires,” Bellone said.

“Training is not the issue,” an incredulous and angry Flanders Fire Chief Joseph Petit said in an interview Monday evening. “The condition of the land is the issue.”

Fire lanes are so overgrown that they’re impassable (see video below) and thousands of dead oak trees — both standing and fallen — have created conditions in the forest so hazardous and so difficult to navigate that a disaster is inevitable unless immediate action is taken, Pettit said…

The video was published on 13 Apr 2015. It was shot during a wildfire in Flanders Fire District Saturday, April 11, 2015, showing the condition of county-owned preserved pine barrens, where fire lanes are obstructed by fallen dead oak trees. One brush truck got stuck on a fallen tree (broke a tie rod) and had to be towed from the scene. Location: Flanders, Suffolk County, New York.

New York Governor fires emergency manager in wake of Hurricane Sandy

Steven Kuhr
Steven Kuhr. Photo: state of New York

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has fired his emergency management director for misusing state workers during the Hurricane Sandy crisis. According to reports, Steven Kuhr, the director of the State Office of Emergency Management, diverted a government crew to remove a fallen tree from his Long Island home’s driveway after the hurricane hit the area.

Before that poor decision, Mr. Kuhr had been earning $153,000 a year since he was appointed by Governor Cuomo in October 2011 as Executive Deputy Commissioner of the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. He also served as Director of the State Office of Emergency Management. Mr. Kuhr had previously run an emergency management consulting firm. Before that he had worked for the city of New York for about 20 years in a variety of jobs including deputy director for operations and planning for the Office of Emergency Management and as a chief and division captain of E.M.S. special operations at the Fire Department.

The termination came after the Governor had bitterly criticized utility companies for what he said was slow progress in restoring electricity to customers in the southern part of the state.