ELLENVILLE, N.Y. – The New York Army National Guard teamed with New York State Police and the Department of Environmental Conservation to battle a wildfire burning through the Minnewaska State Park Reserve the week of Aug. 29.
Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters assigned to the Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation, were on station at the Joseph Y Resnick Airport at the foot of the burning hillside. The helicopters filled buckets with 560 gallons of water from local ponds to dump on the fire.
“In total, we flew about 16 hours to support the mission and dropped 80 buckets of water,” said Col. Jason Lefton, the state aviation officer.
The Guard helicopters dropped nearly 45,000 gallons of water on the fire in conjunction with New York State Police helicopters.
More than 200 firefighters tackled the blaze from the ground, some coming from as far as Quebec, Canada, as the blaze grew from 15 to 270 acres. The fire was ignited by a lightning strike Aug. 26, according to DEC officials.
Five Airmen assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing trained in wild-land firefighting were also part of the effort on the ground.
The Airmen, based at Stratton Air National Guard base outside Schenectady, reported for duty Aug. 31.
“As wildfires continue to rage through Minnewaska State Park, I urge every New Yorker to take sensible precautions to keep themselves and their families safe,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul. “I thank all of our brave first responders, partner agencies and neighbors who are working around the clock to protect our communities.”
Rainstorms helped prevent any damage to surrounding structures or private property. There were no fire-related injuries.
“These firefighters are focused on protecting the public and working to contain the fire,” said NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Until we get significant rainfall, these fires are going to keep burning. We need everyone to do their part and be careful with fire.”
The New York Army National Guard aircrews just completed their annual certification training using water buckets at Round Lake in July. The last time the New York National Guard responded to a wildfire was in 2018 when it dumped 126,000 gallons of water from the air onto a 500-acre forest fire in Altona.
“Our training pays off because our team was ready when called,” Lefton said. “It is a testament to our training plans, individual readiness, instructor pilots and amazing maintenance teams.
“We will recover, train and be ready to aid when the call comes again,” he said.