Fire crews battle wildfire in Elmira Heights

ELMIRA HEIGHTS, N.Y. (WETM) — Fire departments across the Southern Tier responded to a major wildfire in Elmira Heights Thursday, where smoke could be seen for miles.

Fire crews struggled to get to the scene of the blaze, located in a wooded area near 19th and Hoffman. That’s when Jay Brown—a former Elmira correctional officer who became blind after a small explosion in his garage back in 2018—stepped in to guide them to the exact spot they needed to be.

Brown learned of the fire by listening to his scanner. He then passed the information along to his uncle, Rick Woodruff.

“I come back home from a job and Jay had called me and said, ‘Hey, there’s a fire up the road. Try to get to your machines, see if you can get up in there and help the firefighters,'” Woodruff said. “It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, up on that mountain. There are not many trails. Jay just told me where they were—listening on his scanner and stuff. I jumped on my machine and went up there.”

Woodruff said the fire was so deep in the middle of the woods, it took them several attempts to get to the fire.

“Once we found it, we were able to take the firemen in and out,” Woodruff said. “They were glad to see me. There were a couple in there that didn’t have water and stuff like that. They needed people, they needed drinking water, and their bag filled with pumps.”

Although Brown is blind, his awareness and listening skills served as a helpful source.

“Thank God my family was here to help do what I couldn’t do,” Brown said. “And that was to go give water and give the fireman a ride up to the fire. They worked on it pretty hard and that was pretty impressive.”

Photo Courtesy: Chrissy Brown

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