(Updated Sep. 3 at 11am ET) The Napanoch Point fire is now 75 percent contained, according to the Ulster County Office of Emergency Management. Although the fire remains active, it is now estimated to involve 142 acres, It had previously covered an estimated 270 acres.
In an effort to put the fire out permanently, bulldozers and hand crews from various local, county and state agencies will continue to build direct and indirect break line today, September 3.
More than 200 firefighters have been working to extinguish the fire. The state police aviation crew will continue its efforts to suppress ongoing hot spots with bucket drops of water.
Minnewaska Park remains closed throughout Labor Day weekend. Enforcement agencies have put cones along Route 44/55 to block people from parking illegally. The Mohonk Preserve remains open. So are Scenic Hudson parks throughout Ulster County.
The Stony Kill fire is now completely contained, as is the Wurtsboro fire in Sullivan County.
(Updated Sep. 2 at 5pm ET) More than 200 firefighters, led by DEC forest rangers and augmented by reinforcements from as close as New Paltz and as far away as Quebec, have succeeded in creating a break line around the perimeter of the Napanoch Point fire. The fire is now 40 percent contained, according to the latest news from Ulster County Emergency Management. It now covers about 163 acres, down from an estimated 270 acres.
Two State Police Blackhawk helicopters continue to drop 60-gallon buckets of Awosting Lake water onto targeted parts of the active fire. They conducted 110 bucket drops on Thursday and continued to do so on Friday, September 2.
Ulster County also reported that the Stony Kill fire in Kerhonkson, a much smaller conflagration believed to have been started by lightning, is “now contained,” according to spokesperson Hillary Harvey.
“It’s incredible to see the difference between the footage from a helicopter flyover on Monday and then footage from a helicopter flyover this morning,” said a relieved county executive Pat Ryan. “I say it every time, but I can’t say it enough: thank you first responders and all the agencies involved in this operation.”
The firefighters have been working to suppress the fire in the Minnewaska State Park for five days. The effort began soon after a lightning strike on August 29
The park remains closed through Labor Day.
(Updated Sep. 1 at 8pm ET) New York State Governor, Kathy Hochul, changed her schedule to arrive in Ellenville, NY and get a first-hand look at the approximately 270-acre Napanoch Point Fire this afternoon. The Governor, along with County Executive, Pat Ryan, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner, Erik Kulleseid and members of the incident command scene provided a series of updates on the state of the fire.
“This is truly an international response to a crisis,” said Hochul, pointing to the 20 firefighters in red that had arrived from Quebec to land a hand in battling the ongoing Napanoch Point Fire in a remote section of the 26,000-acre Minnewaska State Park that began on August 29th from a lightning strike.
“What is it with your county?” Hochul said to Ryan, who recently won a special election fill Anthony Delgado’s position as Congressman to the region. “I’m spending every weekend up here in the winter and now again?” she joked, referring to the “ice-storms, power-outages, hurricanes and now a wildfire!”
The Governor said that “sadly, this is a direct result of climate change. We’re the first generation to suffer from the consequences of man’s assault on mother nature for decades but we’re also the last generation to be able to stop it!”
Hochul said that in her short time as Governor of New York she has had to respond to “more hurricanes than Florida! We’ve had multiple 100-year floods, hurricanes that caused people to die in their cars and their homes…Usually at this time of year we’re sending people out west to help fight the large forest fires because of climate change and now, we’re asking them to come help us.”
She said that with the increased warming of the planet due to carbon emissions, most significantly from fossil fuels, that we “have to expect the unexpected.”
She commended Ryan on the County’s response to the wildfire and said that “we’re blessed to have Commissioner Seggos leading the DEC for New York but also right here, on the ground, helping to orchestrate the response to this fire.”
Hochul said her heart went out to Parks Commissioner Kulleseid, “as I imagine this is heartbreaking for you and your staff and the people that love this park. Every tree lost is a loss of life. This is not what we expected for a holiday weekend, but I want to thank all of your for being here, to the firefighters and first responders who came because your County and your State needed you. Thank you.”
Using a blown-up topo map of the Western section of the park, Hochul, who had recently flown over the blaze, said that “the fire went from 75 acres up to 270 acres and now it’s scaled back again. Tuesday night’s two-inches of rain helped buy us some time, but it didn’t put the fire out.” She said that about “20 percent of the fire is now contained,” and believes that “the DEC predicts it will burn itself out and they don’t expect it to threaten any lives or structures.”
Commissioner Seggos said that the fire “keeps fluctuating. Right now, it’s gone down in size from 270 acres to about 160-acres but it’s constantly changing. These are not good conditions for wildfires. It’s exceptionally dry, it’s windy and we’re grateful to the Governor for providing us with every resource we needed from day one.” They’ve dropped more almost 30,000 gallons of water onto the fire utilizing the State Troopers 2 Blackhawk helicopters and the DEC’s helicopters, dragging buckets into Lake Awosting and then having a forest ranger communicate with the air-boss to try and target the drop onto the blaze.
On the ground what the firefighters have done, under the direction of the Incident Commander, Robbi Mecus, a DEC Forest Ranger, is to try and create a break-line around the perimeter of the fire, digging deep enough into the ground to get past the roots and into mineral soil and bedrock, in many areas by hand as the terrain is too steep and rugged for vehicle access of any kind.
“We first went in directly to the fire and tried to hand cut lines around the fire to stop it, but it was too intense and dangerous for the firefighters to be that close to it,” said Mecus. “They then pulled back and are in the process of creating a box-shaped break line around the fire, some with bulldozers where they can gain access, and other areas by hand. “We’re digging down deep,” she explained. “Imagine a house fire and if the firefighters could cut the house in half, removing the burning section from the non-burning section and separating them. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Once the outer fire line is completed, Mecus said that they will move back in to “attack the fire directly.”
Parks Commissioner Kulleseid wanted to thank Eric Humphries, the Director of Minnewaska State Park and his staff who have been “exceptional” during this time and wanted alert the pubic that “we will not be open for Labor Day. I know people love to enjoy the park on this holiday weekend but I encourage you to find other nearby parks and new adventures.” Asked by Hudson Valley One, when he believes the park will be reopened, he said, “as soon as the fire is put out, we’re opening right back up.”
County Executive Ryan said that he understands that “this park holds a special place in many people’s hearts. It does mine. I grew up running and hiking in this park as a scrawny high school cross country student. I can imagine how hard this is on people who love this park and have similar attachments to it and have brought their kids hiking and swimming in it. We’re doing everything we can to get the fire under control.”
Ryan’s biggest takeaway was gratitude for the “fire fighters that have come from every corner of our county to help and from beyond our county, and even from Quebec!” He thanked the DEC Forest Rangers and firefighters and State Police officers and said that what “touched my heart has been the outpouring of support from people who want to help and make sure that the firefighters have enough water and food. They’re in some rugged territory here and it’s hot and they’re soot-filled and dirty and they’re the ones out there working day and night to contain this fire.”
Seggos did note that while this particular forest ecology is fire-dependent, meaning it thrives off fire to propagate and regenerate, that with its proximity to villages they have to be sure that it stays contained. “You don’t see fire coming off the mountain right now, but I was just out there with Robbie and it’s smoldering and hot and still going. You’ll likely see flames tonight when the sun starts to set and the ground heats up.”
The incident command center is on Berme Road in Ellenville.
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul will be visiting the Napanoch Point Fire command post at 2:15 p.m. today at 20 Berme Road in Ellenville. The event will be streamed live at www.governor.ny.gov. According to the office of Ulster County Emergency Management, Governor Hochul will be giving updates on the fire, which currently is being held at 270 acres. The fire erupted on August 29 from a lightning strike and quickly spread from 30 to 270 acres. More than 200 firefighters, led by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Rangers and with air support from the DEC and New York State Troopers, have been able to keep the Napanoch Point Fire from spreading beyond 270 acres.
More than 200 firefighters, led by Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Rangers, are working on three fires on the Shawangunk Ridge: the Napanoch Point Fire, the Stony Kill Fire and the Wurtsboro Fire in Sullivan County. The Stony Kill Fire in Minnewaska State Park Preserve is 1.5 acres and 95% contained. Minnewaska State Park Preserve remains closed to all visitors at least through Labor Day weekend.
Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Tuesday the deployment of the New York Army and Air National Guards, along with a number of other resources, to further support fire suppression efforts. Two Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with three-person crews, capable of dropping 600 gallons of water at a time, have begun aerial operations, while a contingent of five firefighters from the Air National Guard have been deployed. State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers, in cooperation with Ulster County, are serving as Incident Commanders.
Additionally, 20 Canadian firefighters from Quebec, secured through the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact, are set to arrive on Thursday. The Compact, established in the 1940s, provides the means for its member states and provinces to cope with fires that might be beyond the capabilities of a single member through information, technology and resource sharing (mutual aid) activities.
“Yesterday it was estimated at 30 acres, but the fire has grown significantly,” said Hillary Harvey, the Public Information Officer for the Ulster County Office of Emergency Management. “The fire is being driven by the wind right now.”
“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,” Governor Hochul said. “I thank all of our brave first responders, partner agencies and neighbors who are working around the clock to protect our communities.”
New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “I am grateful for the many agencies and personnel who have stepped up to protect a treasured natural and recreational resource. Firefighters are working in grueling conditions to contain this fire – dealing with difficult terrain and tough weather conditions. I commend them all for quickly jumping into action to help.”
New York State is closely monitoring the weather conditions as a front moves into the State from the west. While some rain may be expected, the amount of rain is not anticipated to have a significant impact and could lead to unfavorable conditions including high winds and lightning strikes.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said in a press release Monday evening that the Napanoch Point Fire has increased in size due to vegetation, terrain and weather conditions. A new fire, the Stony Kill Fire at Minnewaska State Park Preserve also developed. He said there is one seasonal hunting cabin within the vicinity of the Napanoch Fire, and no immediate threat to residents.
The area where the fire is located is a remote location of the park that is requiring firefighters to rock scramble and bush whack up a steep hill to access the region where the fire is raging. An old dirt road can take them via ATV only a certain distance and then they’re hiking with the gear on their backs. To this end, over the next 24 hours, the response team will be committing an additional 60 firefighters, doubling resources to four helicopters and water airdrops as well as 24 all-terrain vehicles. There will be firefighting activities on Berme Road and from Port Bend into Ellenville as they add a contingency line.
All access points to Minnewaska State Park Preserve, including the Sam’s Point Area, are closed until further notice, to maintain public safety. Anyone with reservations for Saturday, Sunday or Monday over the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend will be notified and refunded. All visitors must adhere to these closures.
Crews continue to work throughout the night and day to try to get control of the fire. Assisting on-scene are firefighters from Accord, Kerhonkson, Ellenville, Cragsmoor, Napanoch, DEC, OPRHP and the Mohonk Preserve.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said, “I want to thank Governor Kathy Hochul and all of the first responders who have worked tirelessly during this wildfire. We will continue to work to limit the spread of the fire and I ask all residents to be mindful of the dry season that we are in and take necessary precautions to reduce the chances of further fires.”
Regular updates on the status of the fire response will be posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @UlsterNY.
Call 911 to report a wildfire. For general questions or concerns, call the Ulster County Service Center at (845) 443-8888, Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.