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Cuomo: NY crew to help fight Western wildfires

Firefighter Tyler Jaquess of the Del Rosa Hot

Firefighter Tyler Jaquess of the Del Rosa Hot Shots monitors the Blue Cut fire as it burns in Upper Lytle Creek near Wrightwood, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. Photo Credit: AP / Noah Berger

A crew from the state Department of Environmental Conservation is heading to the West Coast to help battle raging wildfires.

Twenty employees and volunteers will join teams from other states and are expected to help fight the fires for two weeks, according to a news release issued Friday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office. Two state forest rangers were sent West earlier this year to help tackle fires.

“Historically, New Yorkers seek to help whenever and wherever crisis looms and this crew upholds that important tradition by assisting in the control of these devastating wildfires,” Cuomo said in the release. “I commend these individuals for their bravery, and I look forward to their safe return home.”

The U.S. Forest Service will cover the administrative and travel costs by either direct payment or reimbursement to New York State, the news release said.

“The work of DEC’s firefighting team serves as a great example of how states can work together and share resources during times of adversity,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in the release. “I watched the staging operation this morning to wish our crews a safe and successful trip out West and will welcome the team home with much gratitude for their courageous work.”

New York’s first firefighting crew was sent out to Western states in 1979 to fight wildfires, according to the news release, and, on average, one or two crews have been sent to help each year. While helping to bring the flames under control and lessen damage, the crews also learn skills that could be used if such fires should erupt in New York.

During five years of drought, California’s wildlands have seen a continuous streak of destructive and sometimes deadly fires, The Associated Press reported.

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