North country Firefighters battle numerous outdoor blazes

Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 4:23 PM EDT
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TOWN OF ROSSIE, New York (WWNY) - According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the fire danger risk is high for some areas in the north country and moderate for others.

The north country has had numerous calls for outdoor fires where firefighters show up with tankers, ATVs, and water packs.

A Thursday afternoon fire reignited Friday. Firefighters from Gouverneur, Hammond, Brier Hill and Oxbow were called to the town of Rossie where 15 to 20 acres of land were reportedly on fire.

Sunny 70-degree days in April are nice, but firefighters know it can create problems this time of year.

“I love this type of weather. I’m really looking forward to the weekend, but at the same time the firefighter side of me almost doesn’t look forward to it because I know that there’s going to be grass fires, there’s going to be issues,” said Massena Fire Chief Patrick O’Brien.

For Gouverneur, it had another call earlier this week. The fire department posted on its Facebook page that volunteers responded to a hay fire that spread to farm equipment and a vehicle.

Chief Engineer Thomas Conklin wrote, “As a result of disregarding the NYS burn ban, a firefighter was injured during firefighting operations at this out of control set fire.”

The state’s ban on burning tree limbs and leaves goes through May 14.

Former Hammond fire chief and current town supervisor Ron Bertram says people don’t realize, with these conditions, how quickly a fire can spread.

“It is a very serious problem. With these things, people think they can burn a little - a little pile of debris or something or burn off some flowers. It gets out of hand and they can’t stop it,” he said.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Marvin Boyd, the weather the north country experienced this week was very unusual for the spring season, and St. Lawrence County has had a moderate fire warning this week.

“If the plants are not receptive or the vegetation is not receptive, it doesn’t matter that we necessarily meet the weather conditions. So one thing this year is we’re meeting the fuel conditions as well. I know the fire risk community has had several days of moderate in the St. Lawrence Valley,” he said.

Violators of the state’s open burning regulation could be fined $500 for a first offense.