Forest rangers return to NY after helping fight Canadian wildfires
(NCPR)- In early June, just when the North Country was blanketed in heavy, unhealthy smoke from Canadian wildfires, a group of New York State forest rangers drove north towards those fires.
Ranger Rob Praczkajlo, who works in the Adirondacks, said conditions up there were ripe for wildfires. “It was 90 degrees and 10-15 mile an hour winds every day.”
Over the span of two weeks, the rangers worked on four wildfires in Quebec and one ranger worked on fires in Nova Scotia. They set up water pumps in lakes, dragged hoses through the forests, and did what they could to dampen the blazes.
Praczkajlo and other rangers spoke on a call with reporters on Monday. He said seeing the scale of one of the fires from a helicopter was unbelievable.
“It’s like flying from Lake Placid to Lake Clear and everything in between is burned and there’s burned out camps and cottages," said Praczkajlo.
Wildfires across Canada have displaced tens of thousands of people. The country has experienced extreme heat and drought conditions due to climate change and officials say Canada is on track to have the worst wildfire season on record.Allwine and the other rangers on the press call said they felt called to go to Canada and help.
“This is the most extreme fire behavior I’ve ever seen," said Ranger Anastasia Allwine, who works in the Catskills.
She was one of eight rangers working up in Canada. It was Allwine’s first time fighting a wildfire outside of New York State.
“They always tell you, a large firefront sounds like a freight train. Just [on] a smaller scale, the sound of it was extremely dramatic and the speed at which it went was extremely dramatic," said Allwine, describing one of the fires as "a massive wall of flames that created a huge column of smoke."
“You hear about a lot of things happening in other countries that cause concern for you, but you can’t directly affect [them]," said Allwine, "so having the opportunity to go up and have a direct- however big or small effect on a situation was a privilege I couldn’t pass up on.”
The rangers returned to New York last weekend, including three from the Adirondack North Country— Matt Adams, Howard Thomes, and Rob Praczkajlo. As the wildfires continue to burn across Canada, Praczkajlo said there were reminders of those fires on his drive back to the Adirondacks.
“Between Ottawa and Montreal, there was still heavy smoke," said Praczkajlo. "The sun was orange in the sky.” Forecasts show smoke from Canadian wildfires will continue to plague the Midwest and East Coast all this week.
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