Members of an elite U.S. Forest Service wildland fire crew are providing assistance to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation following the devastating wind storm that hit the city September 16.
The Cherokee Interagency Hotshot Crew arrived in New York Sept.26. The 20-person crew is from Wautauga Ranger District of the Cherokee National Forest in Unicoi, Tenn. The wildland firefighters are removing fallen trees and limbs from trails and public areas in the 235-acre Kissena Park in Queens, and the 585-acre Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Nationally, weather has diminished wildfire risks, enabling the Cherokee Hotshots to apply their skills in this urban forest setting.
“We are pleased to provide this service to the NYC Parks Department and the people of New York,” said Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. “This is an opportunity for the Forest Service to respond across jurisdictions and boundaries to meet a pressing need for restoration in a place where our wildland firefighters do not often get to work.”
The Forest Service and the Fire Department of New York have an established, ongoing relationship for firefighter training and response to fires, and serve together on interagency incident management teams. The Cherokee crew is being housed at New York City’s facility at Fort Totten in Queens.
Hotshots bring a high level of expertise to wildland firefighting and mitigation of hazards, including the removal of dangerous limbs and trees in areas hit by high winds. The Cherokee crew is one of 106 interagency hotshot crews in the country. They are specially skilled handcrews with high levels of expertise in wildland firefighting and hazard mitigation.
The U.S. Forest Service focus on forested urban areas extends beyond response to emergencies. Through its partners, including state forestry agencies, the Forest Service Urban and Community Forest Program provides assistance to urban forests through research, education, technology, and funding support.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.