Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

For Release: Monday, April 24, 2017

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions for 4/17 - 4/23/17

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 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, which take them from remote wilderness areas, with rugged mountain peaks, to white-water rivers, and throughout our vast forested areas statewide."

Recent missions carried out by DEC Forest Rangers include:

Albany County
Press Event:
On April 17, Forest Ranger Director Eric Lahr, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Kevin Wisely, and State Fire Administrator Skip Nerney held an event at the Albany Pine Bush Commission Visitor Center to support wildfire prevention. Historically, the month of April has the highest number of wildfires, and DEC Forest Rangers have already responded to 23 wildfires that burned a total of 127 acres in 2017. Most spring wildfires are caused by brush and debris fires that are abandoned or grow out of control. The update to New York's open burning regulations in October 2009 created a brush burning ban from March 16 through May 14. The result of this burn ban has been a 35.5-percent reduction in spring wildfires throughout New York State. This equates to 1,039 fewer fires each year likely to have burned 2,345 acres. The burn ban is in effect through May 14, and DEC posts a fire danger map on its website daily.

Hamilton County
Town of Long Lake
On April 17 at 8:40 p.m., a 20-year-old Utica man reported that two of his hiking companions were lost on Blue Mountain. The two were reported to be wearing shorts and did not have flashlights or other necessary cold weather gear. Forest Rangers Jim Waters and Gary Miller responded, found the pair on the mountain, and escorted them to their cars by midnight.

Steuben County
Town of Cameron
Prescribed Fire:
On April 17, Forest Ranger Timothy Carpenter supervised a five-acre prescribed fire in the West Cameron Wildlife Management Area assisted by seven additional rangers and five DEC firefighters. This fire burned was conducted to improve wildlife habitat by maintaining grass and eliminating woody plants. The controlled fire went as planned and was out by mid-afternoon. This was the third prescribed fire this spring on DEC lands in Steuben County for a combined treatment of 63 acres.

Putnam County
Town of Kent
On April 17, Forest Rangers assisted Putnam County fire departments to contain a remote five-acre wildfire near China Pond. The fire, which appears to have been started by juveniles, ignited standing and fallen dead trees, making complete extinguishment difficult. It took two additional days of firefighting to declare the fire out.

Saratoga County
Town of Stillwater
Prescribed Fire:
On April 18, Forest Rangers Jamie Laczko and Joe Hess assisted National Park Service Rangers to conduct a 30-acre prescribed fire at Saratoga National Battlefield. These burns are conducted each year as a management tool to maintain the openness of the park as it was during the 1700s. DEC has a wildfire mutual aid and prescribed fire support agreement with the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service that allows agencies to share firefighters and equipment to support their missions. The burn was completed by mid-afternoon.

Clinton County
Town of Mooers
On April 18 at 8 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch was called by Quebec Emergency Services to report a lost family of six along the U.S.-Canadian border near the Gulf Unique Area. Forest Rangers Rob Praczkajlo and David Russell responded, as did local fire departments, Sheriff Deputies, and U.S. Border Patrol and Customs agents. The family's cell phone call included geographical references that allowed searchers to narrow the search area. Within an hour of their call, the family was found by searchers and returned to their car.

Essex County
Village of Saranac Lake
On April 18 at 6 p.m., a 67-year-old Saranac Lake grandfather reported to DEC Ray Brook Dispatch that he and his 8-year-old grandson were lost on Mount Baker, a popular hiking destination with spectacular views of the area. Forest Rangers Rob Praczkajlo and Robbi Mecus made phone contact with the man and directed the pair to the proper trail. The Rangers navigated to their location and helped the pair out of the woods by 8 p.m.

Orange County
Town of Deerpark
On April 19, Forest Ranger Peter Morehouse assisted local fire departments to control a 2.5-acre wildfire likely caused by a campfire left burning and unattended. Within an hour, the fire was contained but required further patrol throughout the afternoon before it was declared out.

Essex County
Town of Keene
On April 21, three Forest Rangers responded to a report of a 26-year-old Syracuse woman suffering fatigue on Nippletop Mountain. Her husband attempted to rehydrate her but needed assistance with her evacuation. Rangers used an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) through the Adirondack Mountain Reserve property to provide first aid and transportation. Within five hours of the initial call, the couple were back to their car and in no need of further medical attention.

Chenango County
Town of Pharsalia
On April 22, Forest Ranger Michael Burkholder investigated a complaint of a vehicle driving across Pharsalia State Forest, causing damage to the land and trees. After questioning one driver, Burkholder saw another vehicle abruptly leave the area. A pursuit occurred with assistance from a Chenango County Sheriffs Deputy. Subsequently, the driver stopped his vehicle. An interview led to the arrest of a 26-year-old Norwich man for driving while intoxicated, reckless endangerment, and unlawful fleeing.

Essex County
Town of Keene
: On April 22, seven Forest Rangers responded to a call from a group of Canadian hikers who reported that three of their friends had separated on the Fish Hawk Trail and not returned at the end of the day as planned. The two women and one man, in their mid-20s, were not prepared for a long stay in the deep snow and below freezing temperatures at higher elevations of the Great Range, nor did they have flashlights for hiking out at night. These circumstances led Rangers to believe this was a life-threatening incident. As morning began, 15 Forest Rangers were assigned to find the trio, as well as one state police helicopter to insert rangers to interior locations. The three hikers were able to evacuate themselves and returned to the Adirondack Mountain Reserve trailhead by 9 a.m. with no need for medical attention.

Allegany County
Town of Birdsall
: On April 23, Ranger Justin Thaine responded to a 911 call reporting four people in two vehicles stranded on a backcountry road near Jersey Hill State Forest. One of the group was reported to be injured. Cell phone coordinates made locating the group easy with the exception of the off-road conditions. Thaine located the group by hiking to their location. He provided first aid while local emergency services were stationed at the nearest road location. An elderly couple, ages 79 and 80, were transported by ATV to a waiting ambulance. The other couple managed to get one vehicle moving again and returned to the highway; the second vehicle required towing.

Ulster County
Town of Shandaken
On April 23, Forest Rangers Ken Gierloff and Russell Martin responded to a 911 call reporting two lost hikers from Oneonta in the Big Indian Wilderness Area. Gierloff made cell phone contact with one of the hikers and determined the pair's approximate location. Martin hiked to the location, made voice contact, and escorted them back to their vehicle. The incident was concluded within three hours from the initial call for help.

Washington County
Town of Dresden
On April 23, Forest Rangers Anthony Goetke and Evan Donavan responded to a call to DEC Ray Brook Dispatch reporting three teenage hikers lost near Erebus. The group had climbed Sleeping Beauty Mountain but took the wrong trail on their descent. The group's cell phone did not provide location coordinates. As the group explained their location to Ranger Evans, he was able to identify their location. Within three hours, Donegan found the two Saratoga women and one Rensselaer man, and within an hour they were back at their vehicle.

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

  • Contact for this Page
  • Press Office - Benning DeLaMater
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-1016
    email us
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions