This past Monday afternoon’s rain showers didn’t come soon enough to prevent a wildfire that consumed 16.2 acres of dry brush within the Minnewaska State Park Preserve, but they were still a welcome relief to firefighters from four counties who had been battling the blaze in already-hot weather since Saturday. A spokeswoman for the Office of Fire Prevention and Control of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Kristin Devoe, gave the long-awaited rainfall part of the credit as she declared the fire 100 percent contained as of 4 p.m. on Monday. State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) ranger Steve Scherry predicted that the smoldering remains of the fire would be fully extinguished by 7 p.m. that same day.
Captain Scherry blamed human activity for igniting the fire, apparently close to the first overlook on Route 44/55 above Kerhonkson. The area affected, though much smaller, is the same where the wildfire that ravaged some 3,000 acres of parkland in 2008 is believed to have begun. The section of Route 44/55 between Trapps Road in Gardiner and Lower Granite Road in Kerhonkson was closed to normal trafficon Sunday and Monday to allow firetrucks and other first responder vehicles to set up operations on the roadway to battle the blaze.
Rochester town supervisor Carl Chipman issued several public advisories warning motorists needing to cross the Shawangunk Ridge to use Mountain Rest and Mohonk Roads as detours, as well as updating citizens about the status of the fire containment effort. “The efforts of the men and women who have been battling this blaze in the scorching heat is truly awe-inspiring,” Supervisor Chipman wrote on Monday. “The successes thus far in battling this blaze are the product of the cooperation and tenacity of all of the first responders involved. I am truly grateful for all of their hard work.”
According to a statement from Scherry, 102 volunteer firefighters from Ulster, Dutchess, Greene and Delaware Counties were on the fire scene Monday, plus 19 DEC forest rangers. Chipman’s Sunday update said that 28 of the region’s fire companies had already been involved in the effort, backed by water drops from the New York State Police Air Support unit.
As of Monday afternoon, when the fire was declared contained, there had been no reported injuries or damage to homes due to the conflagration. It was announced that Route 44/55 would be reopened to traffic overnight on Monday but likely closed again for at least part of the day on Tuesday. There was no word as yet how long the State Park will remain closed to the public.