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The helicopter at work over Sawteeth Mt. Photos courtesy Adirondack Daily Enterprise
The helicopter at work over Sawteeth Mt. Photos courtesy Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Rangers fight ridgeline fire from ground and air

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State forest rangers battled a small forest fire on an Adirondack high peak from the ground and from the air on Monday. The Sawteeth Mountain blaze in the Essex County town of Keene is one of more than a dozen forest, ground and brush fires reported in the Adirondacks so far this month due to the warm weather and lack of rain.

Chris Knight got a first-hand look at the response to Monday's blaze and filed this report.

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Reported by

Chris Knight
Adirondack Correspondent

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At about 3 p.m. Monday, a state police helicopter swoops down from the surrounding mountains over Lower AuSable Lake. Below it, suspended on a cable, is a huge orange collapsible bucket. The helicopter slows and begins to hover over the lake, its rotors whipping the water around it into a frenzied mist. Then slowly, the helicopter lowers, dipping the bucket into the water until it’s completely submerged.

It pauses for a few seconds, then rises up, pulling the bucket, now filled with a combination of water and fire retardant foam, out of the lake. Over the next few minutes, the helicopter will climb to the ridgeline above the lake, where it will dump its load of water and foam on a forest fire that’s consumed about a quarter of an acre. Then it will head back down to the lake and repeat the process another dozen or so times.

Kevin Burns is the state forest ranger in charge of coordinating the response to this blaze. In addition to the helicopter, about a half dozen rangers were also working on the ground to contain the fire. Burns said, “The game plan was to cut a line and start digging a fire line, which means digging down to the bedrock or mineral soil so we can get a nice control line around it so that ground fire doesn’t creep out. But that top side is going to take a few days to really get that thing knocked down.”

This fire is just the latest in a sting of forest fires in the Adirondacks. Most, like this one, have been sparked by campfires left unattended or not properly extinguished. “The backcountry campers need to be very, very careful with fire,” Burns said. “They probably shouldn’t have a fire at this point. You set a fire on the ground, you think you put it out but it probably isn’t out. It’s going to creep into the duff. A week later it pops back up, and then we have a problem.”

Since July 1, DEC officials say there have been more than a dozen forest fires in the Adirondacks that have consumed roughly 23 acres.

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