Wildfire on shore of Big Tupper burns 2 acres

TUPPER LAKE – Firefighters worked for about two hours to extinguish a wildfire that burned approximately 2 acres of land on the shore of Big Tupper Lake in the late afternoon Monday.

The Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department responded to the reported wildfire on the outer edge of Rock Island Bay, approximately a half-mile from Route 3, at 2:44 p.m. Mutual aid came from Paul Smiths-Gabriels and Piercefield volunteer fire departments for a combined 34 members and five boats.

The fire had spread more than an acre by the time responders arrived with boats, according to Tupper Lake Fire Chief Carl Steffen. Ground crews used a water pump, hoses, hand tools and portable water tanks to control and extinguish the fire by 4:30 p.m.

The cause of the fire has yet to be confirmed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, but some responders said a campfire in the middle of the scene was a likely starting point.

“The people who saw it said this pit was raging at one point,” said volunteer firefighter Jenn Bradley. She motioned to the makeshift fire pit beneath her as she used a tool to rake the blackened ground surrounding it.

Jon Kopp, one of several people who reported the fire, said he was working across the lake at Paradise Point when he noticed smoke coming from the woods.

“My co-worker and I went over there with a boat to check it out, and sure enough we found a small forest fire, maybe about an acre of land,” Kopp said. “The way the wind was blowing it was bad, so we called the fire department and they said they already had members on their way.”

Kopp stayed by the shore and assisted firefighters with their equipment. He said a campfire on a point of the bay appeared to be at the heart of the damage.

“It looked to me like someone definitely set up a fire ring right on the edge of the lake,” he said. “You could see the burn marks where it just spread from that point.”

Firefighters continued to douse the ground with water after the flames ceased to ensure the coals would not spread and start another fire. Steffen said the dry weather combined with wind made it easier for the fire to spread, and cautioned campers to fully extinguish their fires.

The entire state is currently under moderate fire danger, according to the DEC.