Eagle Scouts' Extinguish Forest Fire
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Frank Bronico
While away on a camping trip, three Rutherford Eagle Scouts noticed smoke in the woods and realized something was not right. They searched for the source of the smoke and found a fire had started. With the help of their Scout leaders, they prevented a wildfire from spreading and becoming even more dangerous. This is Rutherford spoke with these three Eagle Scouts, Freddy Liller, Matthew Bronico, and Anthony Masullo, and their Troop leaders Fred Liller, Sr., and Frank Bronico about how they worked together to extinguish the fire.
TIR: Where was the campsite located?
Fred Liller, Sr.: Camp Keowa is part of Ten Mile River Boy Scout Camps of the Greater New York council. It is located in Bethel, New York.
TIR: Is this a site you visit often?
FLS: Troop166 visits this camp every October and May for the shooting sports weekend events.
TIR: Were there specific tasks to be completed during this camping trip?
FLS: The weekend was all about teaching gun safety, and proper shooting also archery, ax throwing, and fishing. Awards were given out for top placing.
TIR: How did you discover the fire at the campsite?
FL: We discovered the fire while leaving one of the ranges. We were walking to meet Mr. Bronico when we saw heavy smoke down the road from us. We decided to head down and we came across the fire.
MB: Freddy, Anthony, and I were just exiting a shooting sports activity that we had been doing when we noticed a large amount of smoke coming from down the road. We notified my father who drove us to the activity and was sitting in the parking lot. We all drove the rest of the way down the road where we discovered that a full-blown brush fire had engulfed a section of the area.
AM: We discovered the fire by seeing the smoke rising from it. We were coming down the shooting range and saw a ton of smoke rising from an area not far down the hill. The four of us decided to drive and check it out. When we got there, we saw a forest fire – probably 60 feet in diameter, and a paramedic frantically trying to put out as much as possible.
FB: The EMT for the camp witnessed the fire and tried to put it out by himself. He was deep in the woods at 10 Mile River Campground in Narrowsburg NY. Matt, Freddie, and Anthony saw the smoke after getting done shooting Muzzleloaders.
TIR: What else can you tell us about the fire?
FB: The fire was started accidentally by someone smoking and throwing their match on the ground. Fire danger was high and it only took a second for this to become a fire.
TIR: What did you decide to do when you saw the fire was spreading?
FL: As a Firefighter, my natural instinct is to contain the fire in one area. When we first arrived, we worked together to protect a boat shed that was near the fire. We decided that we needed to help and stop this from getting worse, and we quickly went to stomp the fire and eventually used lake water to extinguish the fire.
MB: Upon arriving, the flames of the fire were licking the side of a wooden cabin which was soon to go up in flames. We, as well as the on-camp EMT, stomped much of the fire out, as well as using a wool blanket.
AM: The decision to try to put the fire out was immediate and unanimous. The three of us leaped out of the car and started stamping out the fire-front.
TIR: How did you work as a team to put out the fire?
FL: We all worked on containing the fire to one place by extinguishing the perimeter. After most of the outer edge was put out, Matt and Anthony started to grab water while I continued to stop the fire from spreading out any farther by stomping down on the flames. While we were doing this, I decided to call my father who was back at the campsite and tell him to bring more buckets of water. I made sure that the perimeter was out and it would not spread, and then I worked with the others on the inside. We then worked on loose branches burning and then 4 of us were pouring water inside of a tree to extinguish the fire that was inside.
MB: Once we had initially preserved the cabin, we searched for something to transport water from a nearby lake. The EMT found a steel top of a wheelbarrow which Anthony and I used to run trips up and down from the lake, dumping water on the larger flames and trying to keep the fire contained. As we filled up water, the others would identify the areas that needed it most. At one point we all had to work together to get the water high up in the air so that we could pour it into a hollow, dead tree that was burning from the inside. I ran water up and down for the entire duration while Anthony and the EMT would swap out with each other frequently.
AM: Teamwork was critical in putting out the fire. Soon after we got there, I noticed that there was a lake about 20 yards down the hill. I shouted if there was anything we could use to gather lakewater. The paramedic found an old mason pan, and I helped Matt to ferry water up the lake to get major parts of the fire. I had to switch out after about 10 draws, but Matt was able to keep going throughout. It was important to coordinate where it was put out and where we still needed to extinguish it.
FLS: I was notified of the fire by my son. There was a wildfire at the camp adjacent to his. We were at the range so we asked to borrow a cell phone to call the fire department. He said they needed buckets for water. I loaded our water jugs onto my pickup truck and drove to the area. Once I arrived I saw they already had it contained to a small area and some trees. We used the jugs plus the concrete pan they had found to continue to wet down the area. Upon the arrival of the fire department, I assisted by continuing to cut down pine trees that were burning up in the hollow areas so they could be extinguished.
FB: We drove to the fire and the four of us assisted the one EMT trying to put out the fire that was all by himself. The brush fire had just started to catch the edge of the first structure on fire when we arrived. The boys worked to put that fire out first – basically with their feet at first before finding the top to a wheel barrel and making trips to the lake to get water on the fire.
TIR: How did your fathers and troop leaders assist with extinguishing the fire?
FL: Mr. Bronico was there with us when we first saw the fire. He was with us, and he was helping us extinguish the fire. My Father, Fred Liller, was called by me and told to come down because he needed more buckets. When he arrived he helped extinguish out-of-reach spots, and he helped assist the Fire department when they arrived. As an Ex-chief and Captain, he knows what to do in these situations. He helped the FD by cutting a tree that was on fire to prevent the spread any further.
MB: My father, Frank Bronico, initially helped with extinguishing the fire near the cabin and other areas. He then told Freddy to call for his father who is the captain of Truck Co. 1 in Rutherford, NJ. My father, upon realizing that the emergency services may have a difficult time finding the area, took his truck to go meet the first responders on the road. Freddy Liller's father, Fred Liller, was the only other adult from our troop to help extinguish the fire. He arrived ten to fifteen minutes after we did, roughly the same time that the police arrived. With him, he brought jugs that made it easier to carry water up from the lake. When the White Lake brush truck arrived, Fred used their chainsaw to cut down the dead tree that was on fire.
AM: Mr. Bronico was there from the start; he helped how he could, stamping out the fire and drawing water once he got a container. Mr. Liller came a bit later after he was called. He had brought a few more containers for water which helped us get the fire under control. He also helped by cutting down a tree whose inside was completely burning.
TIR: What else can you tell us about the fire?
FL: The fire was not burning for long, and we were able to put it out quickly.
MB: I do not think the timing of our arrival could have been any better. We arrived when the fire was still in its early stages, however, it was rapidly growing. All of the brush in the area was extremely dry and the wind was coming off of the nearby lake, picking the fire up and rapidly expanding it. We were able to contain the fire to an area with about a 50-60 foot diameter. After putting the fire out, the EMT helped me and Anthony who sustained minor injuries.
AM: The Police showed up around fifteen minutes in. They really didn’t help much and just stood around. At around twenty minutes, a brushfire truck had shown up, once most of the fire was put out. They were able to douse everything, but the majority of work had been completed. After they had finished, Mr. Bronico had still found some embers, which we helped to put out. I will say this: If we had arrived five minutes later, we would not have been able to put out the fire, and a few buildings would have been lost.