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For Release: Tuesday, October 1, 2019

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions for 9/23/19 - 9/29/19

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 Harrietstown
Franklin County
On Sept. 23 at 8:38 a.m., Lt. Julie Harjung advised DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch that Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department was responding to the Ampersand Boat Launch on Lower Saranac Lake for a report of a missing man whose kayak had been found. The 75-year-old man from New York City had last been seen on Sept. 22 at 5 p.m., staying at a camp on Lower Saranac Lake. His kayak was found washed up at the Knollwood Camp by the caretaker. Forest Rangers Jeffrey Balerno, Robert Zurek, and Peter Evans, along with ECO Nathan Favreau, met at the Incident Command Post (ICP) with Saranac Lake Fire Department, New York State Police (NYSP), and the NYSP Dive Team. At 9:17 a.m., Franklin County 911 contacted Dispatch and advised them that the man was located deceased in six feet of water near Knollwood. Forest Rangers Balerno and Zurek remained on scene to assist with the recovery. All units were clear of the scene at 11:58 a.m.

Town of Arietta
Hamilton County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Sept. 23 at 2:45 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a phone call from ECO Scott Pierce reporting an injured woman at Big Alderbed Lake. A hiking group reported the woman had an ankle injury and was approximately three miles from the trailhead. Forest Rangers Andrew Lewis, David Kallen, and Jason Scott responded to assist. Forest Ranger Lewis came across the injured 71-year-old woman from Johnstown about ¾ of a mile in, and after evaluating the injury, drove her out to the trailhead on an ATV. Once back at the parking lot, the woman was met by the Greater Amsterdam Volunteer Ambulance Corps and an EMS squad, which administered further medical treatment. All Rangers were cleared from the scene by 6:27 p.m.

Town of Harrietstown
Franklin County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Sept. 23 at 4:48 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a man on Seward Mountain stating that a woman in his hiking group had sustained a leg injury with a large cut. Dispatch advised the man to hang up and dial 911 so coordinates could be obtained. The coordinates provided by Franklin County 911 confirmed the caller's location a half-mile up Seward from the Ward Brook Truck Trail. Forest Rangers Robert Zurek and James Giglinto responded, driving an ATV up the trail until they reached the herd path. From there, the Rangers located the woman and drove her back out to the trailhead by 8:16 p.m. The 63-year-old woman from Brant Lake opted to seek medical assistance on her own and both Rangers were cleared from the scene at 8:36 p.m.

Town of Hopkinton
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Sept. 27 at 1:26 p.m., NYSP contacted DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch requesting a Ranger hoist operator to assist with the rescue of a 25-year-old female at the bottom of a cliff with two possible leg fractures. Forest Rangers Robert Praczkajlo and Kevin Burns responded to the Adirondack Regional Airport to be transported by helicopter to the incident location. The Forest Rangers located the woman in the St. Regis River after she had fallen off a cliff trying to rescue her dog who had fallen halfway down. Forest Ranger Praczkajlo was inserted at the top of the cliff with a litter where he climbed down to the woman. After assessing the situation, he determined a rope rescue was the safest way to evacuate the subject. Once the woman was stabilized, a high angle rope rescue system was set up with the assistance of three participating fire departments. Back at the top of the cliff, a UTV brought the woman to a waiting ambulance. Forest Ranger Praczkajlo then rappelled down and rescued the subject's dog. The dog was raised with ropes by the fire departments and turned over to family members. The woman was transported by ambulance to an area hospital for treatment. The incident concluded by 8 p.m.

Windham-Blackhead Wilderness Area
Greene County
On Sept. 27, smoke was seen coming from the top of Blackhead Mountain. Forest Rangers Katharine Fox, Christine Nelson, Hannah O'Connor, and Dylan McCartney responded to the location. After a two-mile hike to the top of the mountain, Rangers discovered that an unattended campfire had spread into the woods near a cliff on the mountain. Forest Rangers spent the night working the fire and were able to contain it. On Sept. 28, a NYSP Aviation unit with Forest Ranger Kevin Slade aboard provided water bucket drops on the fire. Forest Rangers Robert Dawson, Melissa Milano, and Russell Martin relieved the overnight crew and the fire was declared out on Sept. 29.

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Sept. 28 at 8:28 p.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch from a man reporting a woman with an upper leg injury near Avalanche Camps. The caller stated that he met another hiker running down the trail to get help for the woman. Assistant Forest Ranger Ethan Engel started in the direction of the camps from the Marcy Dam outpost to evaluate the situation while Forest Rangers Robert Praczkajlo, Scott Sabo, and David Russell responded to assist. At 9:09 p.m., Engel found the injured 55-year-old hiker from Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada, approximately one-half mile from the outpost. She was hobbling down with the assistance of other hikers. The injured woman made it to the outpost where she was met by Forest Rangers Praczkajlo and Sabo with a UTV. After having her leg splinted, the injured woman was driven out the Marcy Dam truck trail and returned to her vehicle, where she sought further medical treatment on her own. All units were clear of the scene by 11:19 p.m.

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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