RAY BROOK New York forest rangers and other Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) personnel are lending a hand to another state in need. A 21-person crew left July 11 to join the effort to combat raging wildfires at the Los Padres National Forest in Big Sur, California. Besides rangers, the crew includes personnel from DEs lands and forests, operations, and pesticides programs. Four of the crew members are from DEC Region 5 including squad boss Robert Praczkajlo, who covers the Jay region. The firefighters are being dispatched through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Forest Service. This agreement allows for the sharing and dispatching of firefighters throughout the country. New York forest fire crews score consistently high performance ratings and, therefore, are routinely called upon by the U.S. Forest Service to assist in other states. New York States Forest Rangers are among the most highly trained, professional wildfire fighting teams in the nation, said Pete Grannis, DEC commissioner. These Forest Rangers and DEC wildland firefighters will be an asset in the fight to halt the spread of wildfires in the California. We are proud of their efforts. The New York State crew departed from the Saratoga Springs Fire Cache, and traveled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania by bus. There, they joined three other crews and flew directly to California where they were assigned to the East Basin Fire Complex. Regional Forest Ranger Captain John Streiff estimated that the crew will arrive back in New York as early as July 27 after fulfilling their 14-day commitment. Streiff said that the rangers are eager to volunteer for the Forest Service crews where they earn considerable pay while gaining unique on-the-job experience. The benefits go beyond compensation, said Streiff. It gives them exposure to large fires as well as exposure to the incident control system. At last report, everyone on the crew is healthy and doing well. At the time this story was reported, the fire, which is located five miles southeast of Big Sur, was 70% contained with a total of 137,260 acres burned. Full containment of the fire is expected by the end of July.