April 18, 2012 —
When the call went out at approximately 1:50 p.m. on April 16, the Lava and the Narrowsburg fire departments were directed to 351 Grassy Swamp Road, seven miles south of Narrowsburg on the river side of Route 97. The fire, according to Narrowsburg chief Dave Casey, who was the first to drive down the steep one-lane dirt road, had been spotted from Pennsylvania and the coordinates were not confirmed.
Eventually, the company located the fire about a mile and a half inland in the woods by Camp Kunata, a camp that is part of the Ten Mile River Boy Scout reservation. By 3:30 p.m. additional companies at the scene included Beach Lake, Cochecton, Highland Lake, Lake Huntington and Yulan. Tusten EMS was called around 4 p.m. to provide support at the scene.
By the fire’s end, which was estimated to have burned 30 to 40 acres, 13 companies were involved in the incident, 10 at the scene and three on standby at neighboring stations. Yulan’s Ladies Auxiliary provided rehabilitation support. A NY state forest ranger was also on the scene.
Tankers drew water from Rock Lake and shuttled it back along the Newburgh Cochecton Turnpike onto the one-lane roads in the camp. From a staging area, firemen with tanks on their backs and on ATVs fitted with water headed off into the woods. Hoses were laid to control the fire around the pumper trucks.
Twelve-inch flames spread slowly across the dry forest floor, as firemen with rakes moved leaves away from the fire to lessen the fuel load.
Fire fighters had the original fire out by approximately 6 p.m. Under the auspices of the state forest official, a controlled backfire was lit to exhaust any additional fuel load. Firefighters returned to their stations around 11 p.m.
Early reports indicated that the fire started due to a downed electric line that sparked as the scout camp was returning electricity to the camp in preparation for the upcoming season.
The fire was one of dozens that have been breaking out across the East from Virginia to Maine because of the warm winter, which provided little to no snowpack, and an unusual lack of spring rainfall.
The National Weather Service (NWS) had issued a Red Flag Warning on April 16 and 17 for the region, which includes Pike and Wayne counties in Pennsylvania and Sullivan in New York.
A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures will create explosive fire growth potential.
A break may be coming this weekend, when the NWS and meteorologist predict that a large storm will move into the region, possibly dumping an inch or more of rain on the dry earth.