A massive brush fire at Sam’s Point Preserve continued to smolder Wednesday night after scorching nearly 1,900 acres of land since igniting Saturday afternoon. The cause of the three-alarm fire is still under investigation.
Officials said Wednesday an estimated 60 percent of the blaze is contained but drier conditions within the next few days are favorable for increased fire activity. According to Christopher Tarantino, public information officer for the New York State Incident Management Team, rain on Tuesday helped to slow the incident but there is still much work to be done.
“Rain is a good thing to help diminish fire spread,” Tarantino said. “It can be anticipated that it will continue to burn but we are in a much better place after the rainfall.”
Before the wet weather arrived on Tuesday, Tarantino said emergency crews faced whipping winds and flames up to 80 feet tall. The 5,000 acre preserve, which is located on the highest section of the Shawangunk Mountains, offers steep and rocky terrain that has made fighting the blaze a bit more difficult to traverse due to limited access, Tarantino said.
Though the affected acreage of the blaze is vast, it has not yet been considered a threat to residential structures and no calls for evacuation have been made. Only three minor injuries have been reported as of Wednesday.
A variety of methods are being used to manage the wildfire, including digging control lines around the perimeter and control-burning vegetation to reduce the amount of available fuel for the fire. Water drops via helicopters are also being employed, where large buckets of water are released over top of the hottest parts of the fire. Approximately 300 personnel from various state and local departments have actively been involved with fighting the fire, including the New Paltz Fire Department.
Since 2009, New York State has enforced a residential brush-burning ban for towns with fewer than 20,000 residents from March 16 through May 14, the period when most wildfires occur.
According to John P. Melville, commissioner of the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, it is important for residents to take into account the dangers of how their actions can potentially start brush fires.
“The Division of Homeland Security will continue to assist local fire departments and state agencies with any assets requested to extinguish these fires,” Melville said. “We continue to ask that residents remember the risk of outdoor burning during this time of year and heed all state and local laws regarding the burning of residential brush and waste.”