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Local Firefighters Return From California Wildfire


A crew of 20 New York wildland firefighters, including a few from our region, have returned home after a two-week mission in California assisting with the Smith River Complex fire.

The Smith River Complex fire burned more than 94,500 acres and is currently 85 percent contained. The fire started with a lightning strike on Aug. 15.

The New York State crew joined forces with 38 different crews from across the country. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Ranger Robert “Erik” Stratton served as the crew boss during the two-week assignment for nine additional Rangers, nine of DEC’s expertly trained wildland firefighters from the divisions of Lands and Forests, Fish and Wildlife, and Materials Management (Pesticides), and Office of Emergency Management, as well as a volunteer firefighter. These responders focused on wood chipping operations to reduce fuels on secondary fire lines.

Returning Crew:

Robert “Erik” Stratton – Crew Boss – Forest Ranger, Sullivan County

Hannah Bieber – Fish and Wildlife, Cortland County

Mark Brand – Forest Ranger, Essex and Hamilton counties

James Canevari Jr. – Fish and Wildlife, Jefferson County

Michael Chappell – Forest Ranger, Onondaga and Cayuga counties

Josh Choquette – Fish and Wildlife, Delaware County

Lawrence Day Jr. – Volunteer Firefighter

Evan Donegan – Forest Ranger, Warren County

Patrick Dormer – Forest Ranger, Ontario and Yates counties

Eric Egger – Lands and Forests, Steuben County

John Gullen – Forest Ranger, Columbia County

Nicholas Johnston –Emergency Management, Albany County

Dan Kinsley – Pesticides, Albany County

Robert Mackenzie – Lands and Forests, Ulster County

Melissa Milano – Forest Ranger, Hamilton County

Evan Nahor – Forest Ranger, Saratoga County

Hannah O’Connor – Forest Ranger, Essex and Franklin counties

Kyle Olson – Fish and Wildlife, Cortland County

Neilson Snye – Forest Ranger, Essex County

Timothy Yeatts – Lands and Forests, Ulster County

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Four DEC divisions were represented by this multi-talented crew and I thank them all for answering the call from our neighbors in the west. When DEC’s Forest Rangers and other trained wildland firefighters reached this fire, it was only 21 percent contained. Thanks in part to their expertise, and some help from the weather, communities are better protected and the fire is nearly contained.”

“When New Yorkers see others in need, we jump into action,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “Multiple firefighting crews traveled to western states and Canada this summer and fall because wildfires were out of control and required experts to work on suppression efforts. I’m thankful for New York’s dedicated wildland firefighters willing to leave their friends and family to help strangers and I’m happy to welcome them back home.”

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