NY DEC firefighting crew returns from fighting wildfires in Montana

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A crew of firefighters from around New York State returned from fighting wildfires in Montana on Tuesday.

For the past two weeks, the crew of 20 firefighters battled against the heat and smoke to help contain the wildfires currently blazing in Lolo National Forest centered in Missoula, Mont.

When the New York team arrived, there were only 80 firefighters assigned to the fire, but as the blaze grew, the number rose to more than 500 with firefighters from across the country.

“Eighteen other states represented at the fire, so there was a lot of experience getting thrown into one can,” Fire Technician Steve Jackson said.

“Great educational opportunity for a lot of our people to work on a larger scale incident and to work on these kinds of terrains and fuel types,” Forest Ranger Charles Kabrehl said.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation firefighting crew is made up of forest rangers, volunteers and DEC employees from across the state. The crew said that getting the experience fighting intense wildfires in the west gives them unique skills they can bring back to New York.

“I came back with a lot of structure protection training that’s for sure,” Jackson said. “You don’t get to do that a lot here.”

“Great opportunity for us to get familiar with larger scale incidents and bring that experience to New York State,” Kabrehl said.

“Any opportunity we can give our crews to learn firsthand how to fight big fires, it’s only good for New York,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “We don’t see the scale of fires like you see out west, but occasionally, we do have fires.”

The group goes out to fight fires in other states about once a year.

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