Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Arson In Prospect Park's Most Sensitive Habitat and Wildlife Area

A fire burns at Rocky Pass one Prospect Park's most sensitive habitat and wildlife areas.
(Photos and illustration: Rob Jett/Citybirder) Click on images to enlarge.


By Geoffrey Croft

It was a close call this afternoon for one Prospect Park's most sensitive habitat and wildlife areas.

A fire was deliberately set on Rocky Pass and a witness saw three teenagers running away from the scene.

Bird watcher and naturalist Rob Jett, founder of Citybirder, was in Prospect Park's "Ravine" area at approximately 2:45pm when he heard a few teens fooling around on the pathway at "Rocky Pass."

"Shortly thereafter, I heard them laughing and running down the path towards the Nethermead Meadow. Immediately after I began to see smoke coming up from where they had just been, then I saw flames in the underbrush climbing the hillside. "

Jett quickly alerted the authorities and within a couple of minutes employees from the Prospect Park Alliance arrived including a crew from landscape management with shovels and rakes. A few minutes later NYPD patrol cars arrived.

Fast acting cops grabbed fire extinguishers from their patrol cars and emptied five of them putting out the fire.

FDNY arrived at the scene about 3:20pm. A law enforcement officer at the scene commented that the fire department's delay was caused because they were not familiar with location names within the park and had a difficult time finding it.

"Luckily, between landscape management workers creating a fire break and police officers with several small fire extinguishers, they were able to keep the fire from spreading through the entire woodlands at the Ravine. By the time FDNY arrived it was just smoldering with no open flames," said Mr. Jett.

Location of the fire.

"It could have been a lot worse. This is one of the most rich woodland habitats in all of Brooklyn and it could have burned to ashes without this quick responce. "

According to Jett, at least 20 species of birds nest in that area including the red tail hawk, and it contains Broolyn's last remaining forrest.

According to Jett and other park watchers, one of the biggest problems with this isolated section of Prospect Park is that it is rarely patrolled, either by NYPD or PEP. He says that homeless people and miscreants regularly hop over the fences at these two hillsides creating trash, fire hazards and other problems.

Making matters worse park workers say they are reluctant to go into those areas alone. In the summer months these supposedly protected sections of forest are trashed by people and illegal parties.

Jett says in the past he sent photos and complaint letters to former Prospect Park administrator Tupper Thomas regarding this area, but nothing was done to reign in the problem and he says it has only gotten worse.

In a April 14, 2008 email to Mr. Jett, Ms. Thomas acknowledged that there are problems in the area.

"(I) have been very concerned about the increased abuse for some time," Mr. Thomas wrote. "I have not seen the actual people doing the damage but have seen the effect and we had worked with the police on the large drinking parties that had been happening at night."

He hopes the new administration will take these issues more seriously and devote proper resources.

Park watchers have long complained about the limited funds being earmarked for the park, especially for its natural resources.

FDNY, and multiple NYPD units responded to the fire this afternoon.

Read More:

Arson suspected at Prospect Park wildlife area
The Brooklyn Blog - New York Post - February 29, 2012 - By Rich Calder

The Brooklyn Paper - March 1, 2012 - By Natalie O’Neill

A fire broke out at Prospect Park's Rocky Pass,
and a witness says he saw teens laughing and fleeing the scene
Park Slope Patch - March 2,2012 - By Jamie Schuh


  1. A year or two ago I saw smoke coming from the hill area to the East of the Lullwater and called 911. The fire department came and the fire was put out, but the guys in the firetruck were clearly unfamiliar with the roads in the park and ended up down behind the boathouse before they figured out how to get on the road up to the area where the fire was. They actually asked me for directions and I gave them some idea, but since I don't drive in the park, I don't really have a sense of the way the roads work or what would be passable for a fire truck. It seems like Prospect Park needs to have an orientation for the firefighters at the stations that surround the park.

  2. Does the guy who saw the kids have any sort of description of them? My neighbor's teen hangs out in many areas of the park and has a penchant for starting fires and he is fairly recognizable. If he was one of them, I'll happily give his parents name and address to the appropriate authorities if they want to let the guy who saw it ID him.