November Brush Fire Blamed on Camp Fire

Emergency Services provide update on Clausland Mountain Fire investigation

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

Clausland Mountain FireNew City – Weeks after a massive brush fire ravaged the woodlands of Clausland Mountain in Orangeburg, clear answers have emerged as to its origin and cause.

Rockland County Fire and Emergency Services Director Gordon Wren and Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco were present at the latest meeting of the County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee on December 10 to update the body on the investigation into the fire and answer questions on the county’s response.

According to Falco, the fire originated near the Tappan Zee Rock, where it might have began as an out-of-control campfire. Though Falco characterized the subsequent emergency as “the biggest fire [he had] ever seen,” there was no indication of arson and no suggestion of forthcoming arrests.

“We know where it started and we know how it started, but we do not know who started it,” Falco said.

Tappan Zee Rock is a popular meeting place for local youths and Falco suggested it was possible the fire was accidentally started by campers or partiers who fled when it got too big.

Though the exact cause is still somewhat unclear, both legislators and emergency personnel agreed the county’s response was exceptional, with excellent cooperation between emergency personnel at all levels.

“We are aware it was a very unique situation and a very dangerous situation,” Public Safety Chair Nancy Low-Hogan said.

After the blaze was identified on November 14, Orangeburg Fire Department called upon all 26 of the county’s volunteer fire departments for aid. Wren explained that as he helped coordinate the entire operation and requested aid from other counties and the state, the fire was divided into four separate areas, with a division commander developing strategy and coordinating the personnel assigned to each subsection.

Considering the size of the fire, Wren reported minimal damage to people and property. A small number of firefighters sustained minor injuries such as sprained ankles and exhaustion, but no serious injuries were reported.

Though the blaze came dangerously close to residential properties and some lawns sustained fire damage, no homes were destroyed.

Most of the fire died down by Friday and was thought to be out over the weekend, but a small brush fire did rekindle the following Wednesday. Since then, there have been no reports of fire connected to the original incident.