Sullivan, Ulster County Wildfire Rages On; Illegal Brush-Burning Likely the Cause

Dry conditions assisted in the escalation of an Ulster County wildfire that likely began with a homeowner illegally burning brush

A swift-moving wildfire that has spread from Sullivan to Ulster County continues to burn Tuesday afternoon.

What started as a small brush fire in in Summitville, Sullivan County around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday has since expanded to more than 1,800 acres of the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest. Over twenty fire companies have combined their efforts and have so far contained about 75 percent of the fire.

The fire is the product of both man and nature. The wind, low humidity, and dry vegetation during this time of year create ideal conditions for the ignition of a brush fire. The spark for this particular fire is suspected by officials to have come from a homeowner illegally burning brush. Sullivan County Bureau of Fire deputy fire coordinator Bill Lothrop says “With the wind, it was favorable weather for a fast-moving wildfire.”

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The Department of Environmental Conservation places a ban on brush burning each year between March 16 and May 14 in towns of 20,000 people or less. For larger towns, this ban is in place year-round. By April 24 this year, there had already been 47 brush fires recorded since the instatement of the annual ban.

The blaze is gradually getting under control, as fire departments have managed to contain 75 percent of the fire. No homes have been damaged so far, and the evacuees from Cragsmoor have been sent back to their homes. Black Hawk helicopters from the National Guard, as well as an air tanker from Canada — the first-ever used in New York State — have been called to help fight the remainder of the blaze.

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