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For Release: Monday, March 6, 2017

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions for 2/26 - 3/5/17

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers respond to search and rescue incidents statewide. Working with other state agencies, local emergency response organizations, and volunteer search and rescue groups, Forest Rangers locate and extract lost, injured, or distressed people from the backcountry.

In 2016, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 356 search and rescue missions, extinguished 185 wildfires that burned a total of 4,191 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in nearly 3,000 tickets or arrests.

"Across New York, DEC Forest Rangers are on the front lines helping people safely enjoy the great outdoors," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Their knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and technical rescue techniques are critical to the success of their missions that take them from remote wilderness areas, with rugged mountainous peaks to white-water rivers, and throughout our vast forested areas statewide."

Recent missions carried out by DEC Forest Rangers include:

Town of Coxsackie

Greene County

Recovery: On Feb. 26 at 6:33 p.m., Lt. Kevin Beiter was alerted that a human skull was found in the Vosburgh Swamp Wildlife Management Area in Coxsackie, just off of Four Mile Point Road. The skull was located by a hiker looking for arrowheads on state land, and was partially buried in a wooded area. A plan was made to assemble the next morning at 7 a.m. with a forensic team to look for additional evidence. On Monday, 12 State Troopers, two State Police K-9 units, four Greene County Sheriff Deputies, five DEC Environmental Conservation Officers, and two Forest Rangers grid searched the area around the location of the skull to look for additional bones and/or evidence related to the skull. The skull was not fully intact and had signs of extensive exposure to the elements. By 3:41 p.m., the search concluded. An assortment of items were collected to be forensically tested, including pieces of clothing that accumulated in the tidal area around the skull. A photo of the skull was sent to an anthropologist, who believes the skull belongs to a male between the ages of 10 to 13. More definitive testing of the skull will provide an accurate estimate of its age.

Town of Keene

Essex County

Search: On Feb. 28 at 4:30 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch was contacted requesting assistance for a 49-year-old male with an ankle injury on Dial Mt. who fell into a spruce trap. Three Forest Rangers responded, accessing the trail via the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) in Keene. Rangers reached the hiker by 7:40 p.m. and splinted his ankle. The hiker was able to continue the hike out with assistance from Forest Rangers and reached the trailhead at 10:40 p.m. The hiker transported himself to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for follow-up treatment.

Town of Poestenkill

Rensselaer County

Recovery: On Feb. 25, a white male subject was free climbing the rock wall just below the cookie factory at the Poestenkill Creek when a bystander in the area witnessed the climber fall into the creek. He never surfaced. The water flow was high and turbulent due to the warm weather and snow melt. The bystander called 911 and local fire and police department personnel responded to the scene. The turbulent water conditions limited the scope of search operations until March 1, when Troy Fire Department personnel surveyed the shoreline and first responders used underwater cameras. There were no findings. Forest Rangers were requested to assist in a swift water search and recovery effort lead by the New York State Police and Troy Fire Department. On March 2 and 3, Rangers set up the swift water raft utilizing a technical rope system to allow State Police divers and an underwater camera to check two large pools immediately below the falls, where the subject had fallen. Five Rangers with the Troy Fire Department walked the creek from the second pool to the Hudson River and found nothing. A New York State Police helicopter did a fly-over to search the Poestenkill Creek and the Hudson River. State Police also used their boat with sonar to check the Hudson River. Forest Ranger involvement was suspended on March 3.

Search in Poestenkill Creek.
Close-up of raft in search.
Another scene of the search.
Rescue raft near waterfall.
Panoramic view of search.
Scenes of search and rescue near Poestenkill Creek.

Town of Keene

Essex County

Search: On March 1 at 6:37 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a direct call from a mother who said her daughter went for a walk and got lost in the woods off Beede Road in Keene Valley. Two Forest Rangers responded, one starting from the front of Levi Lamb Road and the other from the end of the road. Through the use of coordinates provided by Essex County 911, Forest Rangers were able to establish voice contact with the 15-year-old girl. She was located in good health and assisted out of the woods. She was then escorted back to her home by Forest Rangers. The incident concluded around 9:25 p.m.

Town of Chateaugay

Franklin County

Recovery: On March 2 at 8:26 a.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from the New York State Police requesting assistance with a female who was seen jumping off the bridge on Route 11 into the Chateugay River in Chateugay. Other agencies coordinating with the recovery included the Franklin County Technical Rescue Team and Chateaugay and Burke fire departments. The agencies worked together to locate and remove the subject from a log strainer on the river. The Franklin County coroner pronounced the subject deceased, and all units were back in service around 12:51 p.m.

Town of Lloyd

Ulster County

Wildland Fire: On March 2, Forest Ranger Kevin Slade responded to a 0.8-acre wildland fire on Illlinois Mountain that was the result of an escaped debris burn. The area burned consisted of hardwood litter.

Town of Amity

Allegany County

DWI and Heroin Arrest: On March 3 around 9:30 p.m., Forest Ranger Justin Thaine rendered aid to an individual with a vehicle stuck in a ditch. Shortly after clearing the motorist, Ranger Thaine encountered a vehicle partially obstructing the roadway on State Rt. 19, with the operator asleep at the wheel. Ranger Thaine engaged the subject, who appeared intoxicated and requested assistance. Upon arrival of the New York State Police, a search of the subject's vehicle was conducted and yielded 10 bags of heroin. The subject was turned over to State Police custody, with Ranger Thaine assisting with the subsequent arrest process at the Amity State Police barracks.

Town of Wilmington

Essex County

Rescue: On March 4 at 10:46 a.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance from Essex County 911 for a 26-year-old male from St. Huebert's, Quebec, who, while descending Whiteface Mountain, lost his footing, slid off the trail, went through the woods about 30 feet, then fell off a 25-foot vertical cliff to the Whiteface Highway below. The subject required medical assistance for serious injuries. Rangers arrived at a staging area on the Whiteface Highway at 11:45 a.m. Snowmobiles were taken up the highway to the injured subject along with Wilmington EMS. The subject was reached at 12:08 p.m. After a medical evaluation, he was packaged and brought down the Whiteface Highway at 12:36 p.m. Wilmington Ambulance transported the subject to a landing zone, where he was loaded into a Medivac Helicopter and flown to Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington, Vermont. The incident concluded at 1:35 p.m.

Town of Keene

Essex County

Search: On March 5 at around 10:15 p.m., the girlfriend of a hiker called DEC dispatch concerned that her boyfriend was overdue from a solo hike up Mount Colden's Trap Dike after not hearing from him at the planned arrival time of 4:30 p.m. The 62-year-old experienced hiker was well equipped for the night, but did not carry a cell phone. His spot locator was not working properly. At 10:30 p.m., Forest Ranger Scott VanLaer and Lake Colden caretaker Katie Tyler began searching trails and trailheads in the area. Ranger VanLaer met up with the hiker at the trailhead around midnight. He had found his own way out of the woods and was uninjured.

Town of White Creek

Washington County

Wildland Fire: On March 5, Forest Ranger Mike Bodnar responded to a half-acre wildland fire on private property. The burned area consisted of grass fuel that had been the result of debris burning.

Forest Rangers would like to alert the public that conditions exist for wildland fires this week. March, April, and May are often the months of highest wildlfire occurrences, and the annual brush fire burn ban will being March 16 and run through May 14. The burning of leaves, grass, and garbage is prohibited at all times throughout the State during this period.

Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC's Hiking Safety web page and Adirondack Backcountry Information web page for more information.

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