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For Release: Tuesday, September 24, 2019

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions for 9/16/19 - 9/22/19

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) 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 2018, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 346 search and rescue missions, extinguished 105 wildfires that burned a total of 845 acres, participated in 24 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 610 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 2,354 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, which take them from remote wilderness areas with rugged mountainous peaks, to white-water rivers, and throughout our vast forested areas statewide."

Town of Brighton
Franklin County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Sept. 18 at 10:46 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from the International Rescue Coordination Center advising that a locator beacon had been activated by a 41-year-old Albany man. Coordinates placed the subject on the Osgood River north of Mountain Pond. Forest Ranger Thomas Gliddi responded and located the man's vehicle at 11:49 p.m. and proceeded into the woods. The man was located at 12:30 a.m. along with a 41-year-old female companion from Wilmington. The couple had kayaked earlier in the day and ventured down Osgood River not realizing they were going the wrong way. The pair had intended to go to Meacham Lake but headed in the direction of Hays Brook. By the time they realized their mistake, the couple had run out of daylight and were unprepared for an overnight stay. They parked their kayaks and began to bushwhack through the woods to get to the Grasse Pond Trail. Forest Ranger Gliddi provided the pair with warm clothes, escorted them out of the woods, and gave them a courtesy ride back to their vehicle by 1:45 a.m.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wildland Fire:
On Sept. 18, DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received several calls from hikers in the High Peaks reporting smoke in the Giant Mountain Wilderness. Several Rangers responded and located a smoldering groundfire adjacent to the Washbowl campsites. Keene and Keene Valley Volunteer Fire Departments were activated and assisted with the relay of equipment and construction of the fire line. The fire was contained to half an acre in size. A New York State Police Aviation unit was requested and was able to insert pumps and additional resources. Over the next several days the fire was put out by Forest Rangers. State Police Aviation was deployed to retrieve equipment from the scene. The fire is believed to have been caused by an unextinguished campfire.

pile of wood and grass that is smoking in the middle of the woods
Smoldering embers of forest fire in Giant Mountain Wilderness

Towns of Thompson and Forestburg
Sullivan County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Sept. 19 at 1:30 p.m., two female hikers from Middletown and Monticello entered the Neversink Unique Area to hike to the gorge. At 4:30 p.m., one of the hikers called her boyfriend stating that they were lost, and he arrived at the location and tried locating them himself. At approximately 7:30 p.m., the boyfriend called Sullivan County 911 advising them of the lost hikers. Sullivan County 911 contacted DEC's Central Office Dispatch requesting Forest Ranger assistance. Forest Rangers Matthew Hettenbaugh, Mark Brand, Patrick Lee, and Erik Stratton responded to the parking lot at the end of Katrina Falls Road where the lost hikers had parked their vehicles. With the assistance of State Police Aviation, the lost hikers were located along the Neversink River. Forest Rangers, along with State Police and Forestburg Fire Department personnel, hiked down to the river and located the hikers. The group then escorted the hikers out of the woods and returned them to their vehicles by 4 a.m. After interviews with the hikers, Rangers learned that the pair had hiked on the blue trail until it ended, but then continued down to the river. When they realized they were lost, they started a fire along the river to stay warm.

Town of Collins
Erie County
Wilderness Search and Rescue:
On Sept. 19 at 1:30 p.m., Lt. Martin Flanagan was contacted by Cattaraugus County 911 Dispatch about a 40-year-old female hiker from Buffalo who had broken her arm and was stranded in Zoar Valley. Forest Rangers John Kennedy and Wayne Krulish responded along with Assistant Forest Ranger Lindsay Feather and Lt. Flanagan. The hiker's companion was located by Erie Air 1, State Police, an Erie County Sheriff's Deputy, and a volunteer from the Collins Fire Department. The woman and her dog were trapped on a steep slope leading to a vertical face, about 100 feet above the gorge floor. Lt. Flanagan obtained GPS coordinates and equipment and personnel were brought in from the Erie County Rope Team, which included members from Erie County Sheriff's SWAT, Seneca Hose, Hillcrest, West Falls, Gowanda, Orchard Park, East Aurora, North Boston, and Eden Fire Departments. Two rescuers were lowered via rope system to the woman, who was assessed and safely lowered to the gorge floor. Erie Air 1 Helicopter transported the subject to a waiting Gowanda ambulance, she was assessed, treated for minor injuries, and released.

Helicopter landing on a river bank in the woods
Erie Air 1 begins to transport the injured woman from Zoar Valley gorge
Forest ranger setting up a ropes system in the woods
Forest Ranger helps establish a rope system to lower rescuers to the ledge

Town of Cheektowaga
Erie County
Public Outreach:
On Sept. 21, Forest Rangers John Kennedy and Justin Thaine participated in the annual Reinstein Woods Fall Festival. Forest Ranger Kennedy demonstrated the division's multi-mission drone capability, explaining how the drone is utilized in a wide spectrum of missions including search and rescue, locating wildfires, and assisting on wildlife population counts. The drone is a resource multiplier, giving Forest Rangers real-time information on emergency responses.

Forest Ranger stands in a field getting ready to put a drone up in the air for demonstration
Forest Ranger John Kennedy launches drone during demonstration

Town of Indian Lake
Hamilton County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Sept. 21 at 3:10 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Hamilton County 911 advising that they received a broken phone call from a group on Blue Mountain. The caller stated that the group had come across a woman who had fallen and injured her head and that they were currently assisting her down the mountain. Forest Rangers Jason Scott and James Waters responded to the trailhead, where they were met by the Blue Mountain Lake Fire Department and Indian Lake EMS. On the trail, Forest Ranger Waters came across the group and assisted them the rest of the way to the parking lot. The 71-year-old woman from Blue Mountain Lake was transported to a local hospital by Indian Lake EMS.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Sept. 21 at 7:11 p.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch regarding a 55-year-old woman from Kirkville who was stuck on a ledge on Cascade Mountain somewhere above Lower Cascade Lake. The coordinates provided by Essex County 911 placed the woman northeast from where she started up at Cascade Falls. Forest Rangers James Giglinto, Nancy Ganswindt, and Thomas Gliddi responded to the Cascade Day Use Area to assist. Forest Ranger Giglinto was first on scene and determined that the woman was further northeast than coordinates had placed her. Forest Ranger Giglinto discussed options with supervisors and determined that it would be safer to hike in at first light to assist the woman down rather than navigate the ledges in the dark. The woman stated that she was fine with spending the night on the mountain. At 6:30 a.m. the next morning, Forest Rangers Giglinto, Gliddi, and Daniel Fox met at the parking area at the outlet for Lower Cascade Lake and proceeded into the woods to locate and assist the stranded hiker. Forest Rangers made contact with the subject by 7:53 a.m. and assisted her back down to the road. All Forest Rangers were clear of the scene by 10:25 a.m.

Town of Inlet
Hamilton County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Sept. 22 at 6 p.m., Hamilton County 911 contacted DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch regarding a 14-year-old girl from Syracuse who was separated from her hiking party on Black Bear Mountain. Forest Rangers Jenifer Temple and Jason Scott responded to assist. Because cell phone coordinates were not immediately available, searchers began with nearby trails while the hiking party was interviewed. The hiker's unique walking stick was located by her family members on Uncas Road. State Police in Albany were able to produce phone coordinates for the missing hiker at 7:51 p.m.. The coordinates were then relayed to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch. The hiker was located by Forest Ranger Scott at 8:15 p.m. at the 8th Lake lean-to and she was brought back to the trailhead. The teen had taken a wrong turn on the trail on a lower elevation loop and eventually ended up at the lean-to.

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

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