Montgomery County

Brush fires put Capital Region departments on defensive

Firefighters in Schoharie County and other parts of the Capital Region spent much of Saturday puttin

Firefighters in Schoharie County and other parts of the Capital Region spent much of Saturday putting out one brush fire after another, as high winds and dry brush made for volatile conditions.

“It’s very windy, very dry,” Schoharie County Fire Coordinator Matthew Brisley said late Saturday afternoon. “It’s a beautiful weekend, and I’m sure people want to be out doing yard work. I wouldn’t be surprised if people want to have some campfires later, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t the end of it.”

Five fire departments battled a roughly 3-acre fire on Reagan Road in the town of Esperance that started around 3 p.m. Brisley said the fire was under control by 5 p.m., and no structures were damaged. He said he thought the fire was started by strong wind gusts knocking a power line against a tree, causing sparks that fell into dry underbrush.

According to the National Weather Service in Albany, wind gusts reached a peak of 49 mph between 4 and 5 p.m. Throughout the day, gusts averaged between 35 and 45 mph.

“It took until about 3 o’clock for the winds to really start kicking in, but we’ve seen some pretty strong gusts today,” said meteorologist Joe Villani.

The weather service on Friday issued a Fire Weather Watch throughout the region for Saturday afternoon and evening, warning that under the dry, windy conditions, “fires may spread rapidly and uncontrollably.”

The threat should decrease as rain is expected Sunday night and Monday.

In addition to the fire in Esperance, firefighters in Schoharie County battled smaller blazes earlier in the day in Cobleskill and Gallupville, according to fire officials. The causes of those two fires had yet to be determined Saturday.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office reported various small fires throughout the day, as well, but no property damage or injuries. Neither Fulton, Schenectady nor Saratoga counties had reported brush fires as of Saturday evening.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s annual ban on residential brush burning remains in effect until May 14.

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