Unattended Memorial Day campfire burns nearly two acres, including campsite and belongings

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Burned tent in field

The burnt remains of a tent after an unattended campfire spread at Harvey Mountain. (Department of Environmental Conservation)

AUSTERLITZ, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Forest Rangers were busy with fires left by careless campers throughout Memorial Day Weekend.

  • Forest ranger fights forest fire
  • Forest ranger fights forest fire
  • Forest ranger fights forest fire

For example, four campers in Harvey Mountain State Forest left their campsite at around 3:30 p.m. on Memorial day. They did not fully extinguish their campfire. The smoldering crept out of the embers of the fire pit to light up nearby grass.

The fire spread from the grass, eventually igniting 1.8 acres of forest. The campers’ tents and belongings were burned in the blaze, and the group’s leader was ticketed for leaving an open fire unattended.

Forest Rangers and fire departments from several Columbia County municipalities—Austerlitz, Spencertown, Red Rock, and Canaan—were on hand to extinguish the wildland fire.

The Department of Environmental conservation says that the spring has been cold and dry, delaying green growth throughout the Adirondacks, and causing nine wildfires during Memorial Day Weekend. These fires burned about 40 acres, with one blaze accounting for more than 20 acres of brushfire.

Although downed power lines caused some fires, several others were caused by unattended campfires like the one in Austerlitz. Two of the fires from last weekend are still being investigated.

As Smokey the Bear says, only you can prevent forest fires. To promote fire safety while camping:

  • Use existing campfire rings
  • Pile extra wood away from the fire
  • Build fires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves
  • Clear a 10-foot circle of any material
  • Campfires must be under three feet high and four feet around
  • Only use charcoal or untreated wood as fuel
  • Hold spent matches until they are cold
  • Consider a small stove or grill for cooking instead of a campfire
  • Check beneath rocks for burning embers
  • Buried coals can smolder and break out
  • Drown the fire with water, making sure everything in the campfire is wet
  • Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again
  • Never leave a campfire unattended


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