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.


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.

Update on firefighters’ response to Hurricane Sandy


Laguna Hotshots clearing a road in West Virginia
Laguna Hotshots clearing a road in West Virginia

There has not been much change since yesterday in the number of wildland firefighters that are assisting with the recovery from Hurricane Sandy in the eastern United States. There are still 11 Incident Management Teams, 40 hand crews, and about 1,100 personnel that have been mobilized through the National Interagency Coordination Center in Boise.

Some of the tasks they are working on include:

  • Operating a receiving and distribution center.
  • Using chain saws to clear debris off roads.
  • Supporting chain saw crews that are clearing roads.
  • Supporting a FEMA Community Relations Base Camp
  • Managing points of distribution.
  • Developing plan for debris removal.
  • Operating a mobilization center.
The photo of the Laguna Hotshots above came from their web site (which automatically plays country music when you visit the site). The other photos below were supplied by the National Incident Management Organization (NIMO). If you have photos of the crews in action, send us a copy.
Hotshots being briefed in New York
Hotshots being briefed at a Logistical Staging Area in New York
Logistical Staging Area in New York
Logistical Staging Area in New York, November, 2012.
Bill Hahnenberg debris removal NYC Sandy
Bill Hahnenberg (on the right), Incident Commander of the Portland NIMO IMTeam, planning debris removal with a NYC official

11 IMTeams and 41 crews assisting in hurricane recovery

Hurricane Sandy IMT locations, November 5, 2012

The Eastern Area Coordination Center reports that 1,125 people are assigned to incidents in the Eastern Geographic Area, however some of those may be working on incidents unrelated to Hurricane Sandy. But this number does include 11 incident management teams and 41 crews of firefighters that are assigned to hurricane recovery.

Three NIMO Incident Management Teams are assigned:Resources assigned in Eastern Area, November 6, 2012

  • Quesinberry: Is assigned to provide support to Nassau County, NY.
  • Kleinman: Is supporting development and management of staging areas in New York City.
  • Hahnenberg: Is assigned to the Office of Emergency Management in Brooklyn, NY.

Two Type 1 Incident Management Teams are assigned:

  • Wilder: Is managing road clearing operations throughout West Virginia.
  • Opliger: Is managing a staging area at Fort Dix, NJ.

Six Type 2 Incident Management Teams are assigned:

  • Pisarek: Is managing a mobilization, and receiving and distribution centers in Farmingdale, NY.
  • Dueitt: Is assisting FEMA operations in the New York City area.
  • Kollmeyer: Is assigned to provide support to Nassau County, NY.
  • Graham: Is assigned to Charleston, WV.
  • West: Is assigned to Charleston, WV.
  • Fry: Is overseeing road clearing operations in New Jersey

Below is an interesting photo that the New York City Fire Department posted on their Facebook page showing most of the southern part of Manhattan blacked out due to the hurricane.

NYC partially blacked out

11 IMTeams and 22 crews working on hurricane recovery

At least 11 Incident Management Teams and 22 hand crews are assigned in the eastern United States helping with the recovery from Hurricane Sandy. The numbers provided by various sources vary somewhat, and may be due to some of the resources not being dispatched through the National Interagency Coordination Center, such as an IMTeam from Maine that does not show up on the list below which is from the the Eastern Area Coordination Center. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Hurricane Sandy, IMTeams assigned, 11-3-2012

The crews are working in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

The Missoulian has an article about more crews headed that way today.

If you have photos of these firefighters in action, send them to us through our Contact Us page. Please include a brief description of the photo, the location, and the date. You can send one photo with each message; if you have lots of photos, send us a message through the Contact page and we’ll give you our email address.