Controlled burn in Preserve brings mixed reactions

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Updated: 4/14 11:11 pm

COLONIE, N.Y. – Nearby residents and Albany County officials disagreed with the decision to hold a prescribed burn in The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Monday.

The Department of Environmental Conservation approved a prescribed burn at the Pine Bush on Monday. Chris Hawver, Executive Director of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, said the plants and animals in the Preserve depend on the burns for survival, and the burns take place multiple times a year.

But the Capital Region experienced wind gusts of 40-50 miles per hour Monday and had nearby residents questioning the safety of the burn.

Matthew Rafalik lives on Morris Road. His property borders The Pine Bush Preserve. He said he was not notified of the burn, and debris spread to his yard.

“I know in the past they’ve done these controlled burns that weren’t in control, and the burn went farther than planned,” he said. “Like any homeowner, I’d prefer my property not be set fire because of carelessness.”

Hawver, however, said the weather was perfect for a burn because the heavy winds would help the fire slow down which allows his employees to do a better job.

“In an area where we are so deep into the Preserve, where it’s so heavily wooded, the only way we can burn is with days where it’s pretty breezy because the breeze is pretty light there,” he said.

Albany County Fire Coordinator J.J. Walsh objected to the burn because of the high wind gusts. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple agreed.

“I don’t think it’s the smartest thing I’ve seen done considering the gusts,” Apple said. “If it got away, the volunteers and the city would be over there for days trying to catch up to this thing, and then God forbid if it goes into a development.”

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