2 Capital Region firefighters return from battling west coast wildfires

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FILE – In this Aug. 16, 2021, file photo, a firefighter battles the Dixie Fire as it jumps Highway 395, south of Janesville in Lassen County, Calif. Critical fire weather throughout the region has spread multiple wildfires burning in Northern California. Wildfire managers are often asked why firefighters simply don’t put out the flames to save their homes and the valuable forests surrounding them. It’s not that simple, wildfire managers say, and the reasons are many, some of them decades in the making. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

NEW YORK (WWTI) — New York firefighters have returned home after combating fires in California and Oregon. On Wednesday, the final four New York State wildland firefighters were welcomed home after completing a two-week assignment fighting the Dixie Fire in California, Windy Fire in California and the Rough Patch Complex Fire in Oregon.

This included DEC Forest Ranger Bryan Gallagher from Suffolk County who served as a Facility Unit Leader at the Dixie Fire, Ranger Charles Kabrehl from Warren County who served as a Task Force Leader at the Dixie Fire, Ranger Joseph Hess from Saratoga County who served at a Receiving Distributor at the Windy Fire, and Ranger Jeremy Oldroyd from Chenango County who was deployed to the Rough Patch Complex Fire as a Task Force Leader.

Their return was marked by Gov. Kathy Hochul as the firefighters’ missions completed a fire season, where New York firefighters battled seven wildfires. In total, 47 New Yorkers traveled to combat these fires.

“Climate change has led to a summer of destructive wildfires that are still tearing through communities all across the country,” Governor Hochul said in a press release. “New York’s brave wildland firefighters are always ready to help protect people and property no matter how dangerous the situation, and I am so thankful for their efforts to make a difference among seemingly insurmountable odds. As New York’s teams are back home safe and sound, we continue to send our support and prayers to all those still on the wildfires’ front lines.”

During the 2021 fire season, New York firefighters from the ranks of DEC’s Forest Rangers, expert firefighters from DEC’s Division of Land and Forests, Operations, Fish and Wildlife, Materials and Management and Remediation were deployed out of state.

“Without knowing when or where they will be assigned, every year dozens of New York’s wildland firefighters sign up to help protect communities from disastrous wildland fires in other states,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos added. “DEC’s Forest Rangers play valuable roles as experts in incident command, along with the trained wildland firefighters from across agency divisions and volunteers who answer the call to help get raging wildfires under control.”

The first New York firefighter sent to western states to combat wildland fires was in 1979. Since then, annually, one or two crews have been sent on an as-needed basis to assist with wildfires.

Personnel and travel expenses for resources are repaid to New York by the United States Forest Service and reimbursed based on a mutual aid agreement between the states and federal land agencies.

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