Red Flag Alert For Upstate NY

Apr 8, 2013

The National Weather Service in Albany says dangerous weather conditions have made the entire upstate New York and Western Massachusetts area vulnerable to fire.

The term "Red Flag Warning" has been in the headlines recently.  City of Albany Fire Department Deputy Chief Joseph Toomey says spring is a prime time for brush fires because of the dry conditions:  New York's burn ban law, enacted in 2009, prohibits open burning within that window. During the ban, there are stiffer penalties along with added restrictions.

Red Flag Warnings are typically issued during April and May in New York state, during the high-risk wildfire season. Dutchess County Emergency Response Coordinator Dana Smith says reports of brush fires have doubled over the last two weeks.  

There were several brush fire alarms over the weekend: Rensselaer County firefighters were kept busy Saturday afternoon battling one on Jay Hakes Road, triggered when embers from a woodstove landed on dry grass. Two acres of land burned before the fire was put down.

Nearly 22 acres of land burned Sunday along Route 66 in West Ghent. A fire officials say was set accidentally came within feet of a house, stopped short by firefighters from doing any damage to the building.

It took fire crews in Berkshire County, Massachusetts about six hours to contain a 10-acre brush fire near the Berkshire County House of Correction. The blaze started at a private residence where the homeowner was conducting a controlled burn of some brush. Embers were blown by the wind into a nearby field. The fire spread to an area on the backside of the county jail complex . Pittsfield Deputy Chief Keith Phillips says  the wind is undoubtedly the biggest factor in runaway brush fires.

In Rockland County, nearly 100 firefighters from nine municipalities battled a brush fire in Harriman State Park along Route 202 in Suffern on Sunday.  Reports say the biggest obstacle was getting to the fire because trucks couldn't get up the hill. The fire was contained before it could leave the park, sparing a nearby office complex.

Fire officials report several housefires over the weekend; while they may not have been caused by dry conditions, the winds helped whip up the flames. The high winds and low moisture make for perfect brushfire conditions and they can spread very quickly this time of year.