As the search for two escaped killers stretched into its sixth day, investigators concentrated their efforts Thursday morning on an area near the maximum-security prison in upstate New York where the men had been held.
Officials closed roads and local schools Thursday near Dannemora, N.Y., where convicted murderers Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, had put dummies in their prison beds and used power tools to escape the Clinton Correctional Facility.
The area is about 20 miles south of the Canadian border and 10 miles west of Lake Champlain, which forms part of the border between New York and Vermont.
The New York State Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on news reports, citing law enforcement officials, that tracking dogs had picked up the scent of the escapees in a rural area between Dannemora and Cadyville, a small town to the east.
Thursday's search involved more than 500 members of law enforcement, along with K9 units and search aircraft. The FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the state corrections department, local sheriff's departments and rangers from the U.S. Forest Service are assisting in the hunt.
Officials have largely been tight-lipped about their investigative efforts, though on Wednesday they confirmed reports that they were questioning a female prison employee on suspicion of befriending and possibly helping Matt and Sweat escape.
On Wednesday, the search had also spread to Vermont after officials said they received information that the men may have considered it a better place to hide.
"They thought New York was going to be 'hot,' Vermont would be 'cooler' in terms of law enforcement, and a camp in Vermont would be a better place" to stay, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday, declining to reveal the source of that information.
Matt, who kidnapped and killed a businessman in 1997, and Sweat, who killed a sheriff's deputy in 2002, have defied the odds in remaining free this long, according to prison-escape data compiled by the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Between 2002 and 2012, of the 29 inmates who escaped from New York state prisons, none of the escapees were loose for more than three days before being recaptured.
Almost all escapees are caught within 24 hours.