CRAGSMOOR — Shortly after a wildfire broke this April in the Sam’s Point Preserve, firefighters from across the Hudson Valley and Catskills were on the scene.
That was just the beginning.
When fires such as this one in Ulster County break out, workers and volunteers from state and local government draw on different areas of expertise to keep people safe and protect the environment. CSEA members consistently play a vital role on the front lines and behind the scenes, whether they’re on the job or keeping their communities strong as volunteers. The fire at Sam’s Point was no exception.
Crucial support for firefighting efforts
Work behind the scenes helped stem destruction at the popular hiking spot, which draws swarms of tourists each summer because of its well-known ice caves.
CSEA members working at Minnewaska State Park were some of the first on the scene. They assumed oversight of Sam’s Point from the Nature Conservancy last year and know the terrain better than most. Workers are prepared for brush and wildfires, with rangers taking a federal wildfire training course.
“You’ve got to be on your toes and be a quick thinker,” said CSEA member Marc Cathcart, one of many state parks workers responding to Sam’s Point. “My role was assisting with logistics and getting the people that were on the fire line what they needed whether it was food, supplies or equipment. You’re working long hours and you’re always thinking of safety. The safety of the public and firefighting personnel is No. 1.”
CSEA members from the state Department of Transportation Region 8 Local reported to Sam’s Point for nearly a week, said Local President Chris Espejo, operating bulldozers on-site to build up firebreaks.
State workers from the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services also sent crews, while county emergency services workers and public safety dispatchers were also involved.
Protecting the public
Teamwork among area fire departments, along with DEC and state parks workers’ leadership, prevented a more serious situation such as the May wildfire in Alberta, Canada that destroyed more than 2,400 homes and buildings.
CSEA-represented firefighters from the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs were one of the paid departments responding. Firefighters there are often counted on as a dependable source of mutual aid for neighboring departments.
CSEA members are the backbone of many volunteer fire companies across the area. Many took time away from their families and work responsibilities to fight the blaze.
“The response to the fire at Sam’s Point showed CSEA members at their finest,” said Palisades Parks Local President Danny Corigliano, who noted that CSEA members from the neighboring Taconic Parks Region also responded. “Our parks members showed that when there’s hard work to be done, they never quit. The teamwork we saw, and the collaboration with CSEA members from other agencies, showed the value in the work our members do.”
— Jessica Ladlee