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Aerial Fire Fighting Helps Put Out Orangeburg Blaze

by Ray Wright

Nyack, Nov 17 — The brush fire that consumed over 100 acres of Clausland Mountain in Orangeburg, NY was contained Saturday afternoon. The predicted Sunday rains are expected to extinguish any stubborn embers hiding under the thick layer of dry leafs that made the fire so hard to fight.  But for veteran bird watcher and nature photographer Ray Wright, the story of the Clausland Mountain brush fire wasn’t just on the ground but  in the skies, too.

Thursday night my wife and I went to ShopRite to replenish our food supply.  We saw signs of the Clausland Mountain fire, but went right home because there was danger in the air — and ice cream in our grocery bags that we didn’t want to melt. Once home, we saw the mountains a glow with fire on TV and smelled the brush fire when we opened a window.

By Friday morning, the air outside our home in Nyack was thicker with smoke. We wanted to get away from the smoke, but we were also curious. Since the wind was blowing east, we drove south on Route 303 to check out the fire. The police and firemen wouldn’t let us go east toward the river, so we drove south and parked at Lowes in Orangeburg. From that vantage point we started seeing helicopters dropping water onto the mountain.

To get a better view of Clausland Mountain, we moved to the Stop & Shop parking lot.  We realized that the helicopter must be filling its water bucket at Lake Tappan, a site where we had previously watched wintering eagles. We drove to Blue Hill Road and watched the helicopters stop in mid-air and lower their bright red bucket until it went underwater.  The pilot then maneuvered the helicopter forward and upward with fresh water for the fire. It was impressive and thrilling to watch the aerial teamwork that complemented the effort of our volunteer firefighters on the ground.

Ray Wright was the official photographer for Wright Brothers Real Estate, an agency that his father and uncle founded and that he ran for 40 years.  Ray’s photos are available for sale at Bee Alive, 19 North Broadway, Nyack, NY. Photo credit: Ray Wright

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