Dry conditions fuel Saranac Lake wildfires

SARANAC LAKE – Dry conditions fueled a pair of wildfires Monday that kept Saranac Lake firefighters on their toes.

The first blaze was reported just after 10 a.m. A dozen firefighters and three trucks responded to state Route 3, near the Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club, where a brush fire had scorched a 100-foot stretch of the road’s east shoulder.

A thousand gallons of water were used to extinguish the blaze. Firefighters said it may have been caused by a discarded cigarette. They were back at the fire station by 11:05 a.m.

The second wildfire wasn’t nearly as easy to deal with. It was located inside the village on a shoulder of Mount Pisgah, at the top of a steep hill above several homes on Baker Street.

Saranac Lake Fire Chief Brendan Keough said the fire was reported around 5:45 p.m. by a group of kids who came down the hill and told their parents about it.

Firefighters initially didn’t know what was the fastest way to get to the blaze. Village police and at least one firefighter looked for an access route from Mount Pisgah Way, which ultimately proved to be about twice as long as the approach from Baker Street, where firefighters had to climb and run fire hoses up a steep, rocky slope to reach the ridgeline.

“We had a million miles of hose stretched up the hill,” Keough said. “That’s the steepest climb we’ve had to deal with, next to a forest fire down in Lewis years ago.”

The blaze was on the move when the first firefighters arrived, Keough said.

“When I got there, there were flames on all four sides and it was running across the ground,” he said.

Seven members from the Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department showed up to assist the roughly 20 Saranac Lake firefighters. Working with state forest rangers, volunteers used rakes to create a fire break around the blaze and doused the flames with water from hoses and backpacks. It was contained after about 90 minutes of work.

“The guys worked hard and got a good scratch line around it,” Keough said. “For a while I wasn’t so sure. Luckily there were no evergreen trees in there. It was all leaf trees, and it didn’t get up into the treetops. It was just a running fire carried along the ground by the wind.”

Keough said the blaze consumed about 2 to 3 acres. Tax records show the area where the fire burned is part of a 26-acre undeveloped parcel owned by Joan K. Reyell.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by village police and state forest rangers, Keough said. He said rangers will check the scene again today for any hotspots.

Saranac Lake firefighters were back at their station by 8:30 p.m. Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department members stood by at the Saranac Lake firehouse during the call.

Keough said Monday’s wildfires could be a sign of things to come.

“It’s so dry out there,” he said. “We might see a lot more of this until we get some green.”

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.