Minnewaska fire ‘result of climate change,’ says Hochul – Daily Freeman

ELLENVILLE, NY – The Napanoch Point Fire raging in the treacherously steep hills of Minnewaska State Park is “expansive. It is destructive. And we take that very seriously,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said at a news conference in the village on Thursday.

The governor spoke at a podium at Berme Road Park, a short distance from the fire. She visited Ulster County on Thursday afternoon as she returned to Albany from a commemoration of Hurricane Ida, which hit Long Island and “claimed the lives of 16 New Yorkers, 11 from the borough alone. Queens” a year ago.

The governor pulled no punches, pointing blame for the natural disasters she’s seen since taking office a year ago on climate change. “There were more hurricanes in New York State last year than (in) all of Florida. It’s extreme,” Hochul said. “It’s climate change and we’re dealing with it. now.

“We’re the first generation to feel the effects of humanity’s assault on Mother Nature for decades. But we’re the last generation that can do anything about it. And that’s how seriously we take it. serious in New York,” she said. “Whether it’s hurricanes, floods, blizzards…the fact is, we have to be prepared for the unexpected. has now become the norm.

Speaking to Basil Seggos, the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s commissioner, Hochul said, “The loss of every tree is the loss of a life and the loss of part of one’s identity. of our beautiful state. It is difficult for you and your team, and I also want to thank them.

The Napanoch Point fire started over the weekend following a suspected lightning strike on Saturday August 27. Rain on Tuesday night helped slow the fire’s spread on Wednesday and allowed firefighters to build control lines, the governor said.

But, Hochul said, the fire could still grow due to dry and windy conditions expected over the next few days. Two other nearby fires dealt with this week at what is known as the Shawangunk Fire Complex, Stony Kill in Ulster County and Wurtsboro in Orange County, are now fully contained, officials said.

“As a precaution”, to protect the houses closest to the fire, DEC rangers and staff volunteers will work in the town of Wawarsing, near Berme Road, to establish an emergency line of fire, said said the governor.

The Minnewaska State Park Preserve will be closed to all visitors over Labor Day weekend. The closure will be strictly enforced to protect the health and safety of visitors and allow park staff to focus on fighting the fire, which state parks commissioner Erik Kulleseid has held back. attention of park staff.

“The best way to support their work is to stay away until Minnewaska is safe to visit again. This weekend, please find another place to enjoy it,” Kulleseid said.

Hochul said there was no current threat to the structures and firefighters rescued a hunting cabin near Napanoch Point. “Lives are not at risk right now,” she said, but the winds can change.

Seggos also said that “over the next few days” he expects the fire to continue to fluctuate in size and magnitude.

He said the high heat and “extraordinarily” dry weather “resulted in these extremely dangerous conditions” due to the proximity of neighboring communities. Over the past few days, following about 2 inches of rain on Tuesday evening, he said firefighters were able to establish “wide lines with bulldozers and by hand. And that allowed our teams to have space around the flames,” he said, noting that the flames were not visible from the road Thursday afternoon.

Seggos said that would likely change towards evening when “the sun creates a more direct line over the valley and the ground (forest) warms up. … The ground is smoking in many places. Many trees were lost.

The continued hot and dry conditions forecast over the next few days “make this a really dangerous situation,” Seggos said.

Hochul said “the fire’s range is wavering,” dropping from 70 acres when it flew over the site on Monday to 270 on Thursday. The DEC predicts the fire “could go out, but it could take a week, it could take two weeks,” she said.

Hochul thanked “the National Guard, State Police, Parks Department, Homeland Security Emergency Services, DEC, DOT…and other agencies that really stepped up,” and returned tribute to over 200 firefighters from Ulster, Dutchess and Greene Counties and Rangers and the National Guard, and from as far away as Canada. Quebec sent 20 firefighters to Ulster County, some of whom were in the hearing Thursday.

Since the operation began, Hochul said, more than 500 buckets of water containing 300 gallons per bucket have been dropped on flames from Black Hawk helicopters.

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan on the podium thanks state officials and fire crews, including Quebec volunteers, in red, during a press conference at Berme Park in Napanoch, NY, Thursday afternoon, September 1, 2022.

Ulster County native County Executive Pat Ryan said: ‘Not only is it scary to see a large wildfire on the scale of what we usually see on TV in other parts of our state or other parts of our world, but it’s really sad. It’s really sad to have to put together this kind of response. … I agree with the Governor that we need to be ready for more, and we are ready for more.

Speaking to firefighters and emergency responders in attendance Thursday, Ryan said that “looking at the men and women covered in soot and sweat, and probably blood, we really want to thank you…for having our backs. . Thank you for supporting us through another storm.

Ryan also spoke of what he called “a sea of ​​support, love and community” awash on emergency responders, “to the point where there are so many bottles of water and meals and snacks and letters that were delivered that they had to say, ‘Okay, we’re fine.’

The Napanoch Ladies Auxiliary and other fire departments delivered 500 meals to the front lines each day, Ryan said.

Photos: Governor Kathy Hochul holds a press conference on the current status of the fire at Minnewaska State Park

Teresa H. Sadler