By Bill Demarest
Massive firefighting effort gets sprawling blaze under control
ORANGEBURG – The brush fire that has torn through the slopes of Clausland Mountain since Thursday afternoon is expected to continue to burn over the weekend, but fire officials say that a massive firefighting effort involving more than 150 volunteers has the blaze under control.
The blaze has done damage to several hundred acres of Rockland County and Town of Orangetown park land, but no homes or businesses were destroyed and no one has been seriously injured. Tonight, a Nyack volunteer firefighter is being treated at Nyack Hospital for apparent dehydration and smoke inhalation.
Although the fire threatened several homes along Greenbush Road in Orangeburg and on Tweed Boulevard in Upper Grandview, efforts by Orangeburg and Nyack volunteer firefighters prevented the homes from being damaged.
With nightfall, firefighters have completed their operations for the day. Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco said police will be watching the area of the fire throughout the night, checking for any major flare ups that would require immediate attention. Firefighting efforts are expected to resume in the morning.
Wren said he and other fire officials are hoping that rain forecast for Monday will improve conditions in the area and finally put the fire out.
The fire watch set up by police didn’t take long to spot a problem. Nyack volunteer firefighters had been off the mountain for less than an hour – time enough to get something to eat – when a police officer spotted several flare ups on Tweed Boulevard. Nyack firefighters raced out again to Tweed Boulevard to deal with the flare up.
Rockland County Fire and Emergency Services Director Gordon Wren Jr. said the Clausland Mountain fire is much larger that recent brush fires that hit the Ramapo Mountains in western Ramapo. While the fire at first affected about 35 acres on Clausland Mountain, Wren said the fire spread to damage hundreds of acres of dry, heavily wooded park land.
Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco said that fire investigators from Rockland, Westchester and New York State were investigating the fire on Friday, gathering evidence in hopes of determining the cause of the fire. The fire is believed to have started in the area of a large rock outcropping known as “TZ Rock” – a teen hangout for generations of Tappan Zee High School students.
As of this afternoon, investigators have not confirmed whether they know the cause of the fire.
Wren said extensive coordination was needed on Thursday and Friday to manage the battle against the fire. He noted that at one point volunteer firefighters pulled hose lines from the bottom of the mountain in Orangeburg to the top of the mountain where they joined up firefighters on the top of the mountain.
He noted that Rockland County park rangers were extremely helpful in the firefighting efforts today because of their knowledge of the mountain and its trails.
While on the mountain, firefighters had a unique run in with deer – lots of them. Firefighters reporting seeing very large herds of deer, which were driven from their usual haunts on the mountain by the fires.
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