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North Country firefighters battle wildland fires

Lessons learned during 2018 fire help crews knock down blaze.
Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 3:08 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2020 at 11:19 AM EDT
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ALTONA, N.Y. (WCAX) - The dry, hot weather can make conditions ripe for wildfires. Fire crews took on two fires in New York's North Country over the weekend-- one in Ellenburg and one in Altona, where the fire is still burning. Our Kelly O'Brien shows you.

The Altona Fire Department tanker was still pumping water to fire crews Monday, working to put out the 15-acre fire at Altona Flat Rock that started Sunday.

"Currently, it is not 100% extinguished but we do have it contained with a fire line completely surrounding the fire," Altona Fire Capt. Cameron Garrand said.

Monday, they took me out for a ride to see the work being done to put out hot spots.

More than 25,000 gallons of water were used on Sunday. Crews spent about 12 hours working to contain the fire. Mutual aid came from more than 100 people from Clinton County, Vermont and Canada fire departments, as well as numerous DEC forest rangers and help from the New York State Police.

"If we didn't have the number of people we had yesterday, the fire would not have been as successful as it was," Garrand said.

Heat exhaustion was another battle the crews had to beat.

"We did have two minor injuries. They both have been released and are cleared," Garrand said.

Monday's light rainfall was more than welcomed to help cool things down

“In many cases, it won’t put the fire out but it will certainly change the behavior of the fire and may slow things down quite a bit. Another big component about a little rain and a breeze, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand, it’s good for the guys working in the woods,” said Eric Day, the director of Clinton County Emergency Services.

Courtesy: Au Sable Forks Fire Department
Courtesy: Au Sable Forks Fire Department(WCAX)

Flat Rock has a history of wildfires. In 2018, a wildfire burned more than 500 acres. Garrand says the conditions of Sunday’s fire, at first, resembled the 2018 flames. He says the communication they learned in 2018 helped them make this effort a success.

"Especially in the joint operation with New York State DEC, we were a little bit more prepared on that aspect, we kind of knew what to expect from their end and they knew what to expect on our end and we worked pretty well together," Garrand said.

The investigation into what sparked the fire is still ongoing.

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