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North Country firefighters return home from out west

On Sept. 11, Gov. Andrew Cuomo welcomed home 10 New York state forest rangers, staff and volunteers who had been helping battle fires in California, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Cuomo also welcomed home two members of the New York Air National Guard who had provided support to the California Air National Guard.

Among the returning crew is Scott Sabo, a state Department of Environmental Conservation forest ranger from Franklin County; Mike Thompson, a forest ranger and crew boss from Hamilton County; Aaron Graves, a DEC forester from St. Lawrence County; and Timothy Yeatss with the DEC Division of Fish and Wildlife from St. Lawrence County.

“These brave New Yorkers traveled west without hesitation to help battle these historic wildfires that have scorched thousands of acres of land, burned hundreds of thousands of homes, and forced massive evacuations in 13 states,” Cuomo said in a press release.

The returning crew began their assignment on Aug. 25. They joined federal, state and local fire agencies battling the Aristocrat Fire in Nebraska and South Dakota, which has been contained.

“I applaud DEC’s team of wildland firefighting experts for their bravery and willingness to assist other states dealing with devastating wildfires,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos in the same statement.

New York has been sending firefighting crews to assist with large wildfires around the country since 1979, sending on average one or two crews each year.

All personnel and travel expenses for the New York crews are either paid directly by the U.S. Forest Service or reimbursed to New York state based on a mutual aid agreement between states and federal land agencies.

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