A team of New York state employees and volunteers has returned after spending nearly two weeks battling large wildfires in California, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.
The crew, which consisted of state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers and volunteer firefighters, deployed to Sonoma County to contain the Nuns and Tubbs wildfires. Those were two of the wildfires that ravaged northern California earlier this month.
The historic fires destroyed more than 7,000 buildings and damaged another 487 structures. At least 40 people were killed in the first week of the fires, making it the deadliest wildfires in nearly a century.
The wildfires in Sonoma County are now at least 95 percent contained. They should be fully contained by the end of October, according to the governor's office.
While the firefighting team was in California, they used control lines to contain the wildfire and protect homes threatened by the blaze.
"These brave New Yorkers stepped up to help our neighbors at their time of greatest need and after battling dangerous wildfires in California, I'm proud to welcome them back home," Cuomo said in a statement. "New Yorkers are tough, but they are caring and these courageous men and women truly encapsulate the very best of this spirit."
The returning firefighters are:
• David Kallen, forest ranger and crew boss, Fulton County
• Nancy Ganswindt, forest ranger and squad boss, Putnam County
• Gary Miller, forest ranger, Hamilton County
• Hannah O'Connor, forest ranger, Rensselaer County
• Zachary Robitaille, forest ranger, Chautauqua County
• Eric Kasza, volunteer firefighter, Saratoga County
• Aaron Graves, DEC Division of Lands and Forests, St. Lawrence County
• Scott Sabo, forest ranger and squad boss, Franklin County
• Adam Baldwin, forest ranger, St. Lawrence County
• Andrew Lewis, forest ranger, Fulton County
• Joseph Hess, forest ranger, Saratoga County
• Tyler Briggs, volunteer firefighter, Albany County
• Lawrence Day, volunteer firefighter, Steuben County
• Charles Kabrehl, forest ranger and squad boss, Warren County
• Howard Kreft, forest ranger, Sullivan County
• Jared Booth, forest ranger, St. Lawrence County
• Nathan Sprague, forest ranger, Cattaraugus County
• James Canevari, DEC Fish and Wildlife, St. Lawrence County
• Steven Jackson, volunteer firefighter, Albany County
• Samuel Griffis, volunteer firefighter, Washington County
"I commend our forest rangers, staff and volunteers for their bravery over these past two weeks in helping to contain this wildfire and protect precious natural resources and private homes," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "All New Yorkers should be proud of the work our fire crews do to battle these blazes. For nearly 40 years, New York has stood ready and willing to assist our sister states in their time of need."
New York has been sending firefighting crews to western states since 1979. This year, in addition to sending rangers to help contain wildfires, five rangers were sent to assist with the Hurricane Harvey response in Texas.
Personnel costs and travel expenses for the New York teams are paid by the U.S. Forest Service or reimbursed to the state based on a mutual aid agreement.