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For Release: Monday, April 30, 2018

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions for 4/23 - 4/30/18

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 2017, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 346 search and rescue missions, extinguished 55 wildfires that burned a total of 191 acres, participated in 29 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 564 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 is 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."

Recent missions carried out by DEC Forest Rangers include:

Town of Windham
Greene County
: On April 23 around 2 p.m., Greene County 911 requested Forest Rangers to assist two hikers unable to hike down the Batavia Kill Trail due to icy conditions. The hikers were in good health and within cell range. However, the pair did not have crampons and could not get off the trail without assistance. Two Forest Rangers responded up the trail, provided the hikers with crampons, and assisted them down the trail, all reaching the trailhead by 8 p.m.

Town of Rathbone
Steuben County
Prescribed Fire:
On April 23, Forest Rangers conducted a 45-acre prescribed burn in heavy grass fuels on the Helmer Creek Wildlife Management Area. Ten Rangers participated along with 32 staff from DEC's Division of Lands & Forests and Division of Fish & Wildlife, state Fire Wardens, volunteers, and an Excelsior Corps crew. In addition to improving wildlife habitat, the burn provided an opportunity to train new wildland firefighters to complete a federal wildland firefighter training courses.

Town of Fremont
Sullivan County
Wildland Fire:
On April 23 at 2:40 p.m., Sullivan County 911 requested Forest Ranger assistance with a wildfire on a remote area of land along a natural gas pipeline in Long Eddy. Forest Rangers responded personnel from the Long Eddy, Hancock, Callicoon, Hortonville, East Branch, Roscoe, North Branch, and Hankins fire departments. The fire originated from a cooking campfire. Access to the fire was difficult as it was 1.5 miles from the nearest road. Personnel and water had to be transported in on off-road utility vehicles. High wind conditions pushed the fire down the pipeline until it reached a wooded area. The fire was contained to 4.9 acres. Extensive mop up efforts continued into the evening hours, with suppression operations ending around 9 p.m. The two campers responsible were issued tickets for setting a fire without having three feet of flammable material cleared and setting a fire that endangered the property of another.

Town of Rathbone
Steuben County
Wildland Fire:
On April 23 at around 4:55 p.m., Steuben County 911 requested Forest Ranger assistance with a 9.8-acre wildfire on private property on Merring Road. Forest Rangers were diverted from a prescribed fire event and met up with personnel from the Woodhull, Tuscarora, Cameron, Canisteo, Gang Mills, Jasper, and South Hornell fire departments on scene. Rangers and volunteer fire service personnel completed suppression activities and had the fire out by 8 p.m. An investigation determined that embers from the chimney of a maple syrup operation caused the fire. An old sugar shack building used for storage was destroyed in the fire.

Town of Sanford
Broome County
Wildland Fire:
On April 23 at approximately 12 p.m., Broome County 911 requested Forest Ranger assistance with suppression of a wildfire on Wilson Hill Road. Forest Rangers responded with fire department personnel from Deposit, Windsor, and Susquehanna (Pennsylvania). Much of the 9.6-acre fire had been contained. Rangers assisted in extinguishing hot spots inside the fire perimeter. The fire originated from individuals unlawfully burning construction debris during strong winds. Tickets were issued for violating the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), including setting fire that endangered the property of another, and failure to remove inflammable materials a distance of three feet from a fire.

Town of Marbletown
Ulster County
Wildland Fire:
On April 23 around 2:30 p.m., Forest Rangers responded to a reported wildland fire in the town Marbletown off Lapla Road. Arriving with the Lomontville, West Hurley, and Olive fire departments, personnel had a tough time locating the fire as strong winds fueled the blowing smoke in different directions. Rangers deployed a DEC drone, which allowed the Lomontville Fire Chief to identify the fire's origin on Pine Grove Hill Road. The use of the drone saved a large amount of time and manpower from being expended. The fire personnel contained the fire to two acres and saved a residence, which was in the fire's path. A faulty telephone pole is believed to be the cause of the fire. Personnel were clear of the fire scene by 7:30 p.m.

Town of Monroe
Orange County
Wildland Fire:
On April 23 around 5:45 p.m., the Palisades Interstate Park Commission requested Forest Ranger assistance with a wildfire inside Gonzaga Park, a 216-acre parcel off Greycourt Road owned by Orange County Parks, Recreation, and Conservation. Monroe and South Blooming Grove fire departments had most of the 2.4-acre fire extinguished upon Forest Ranger arrival. Due to strong, swirling winds, Ranger Patrick Lee continued to work on putting out several hot spots within the burn area. He stayed on scene until 11 p.m. to ensure no additional hot spots were found and the winds died down. The fire appears to have originated from an abandoned campfire ring about 100 feet from the Appalachian Trail.

Town of Cameron Mills
Steuben County
Prescribed Fire
: On April 24, Forest Rangers conducted a prescribed burn on 12 acres of heavy grass fuel inside the Cameron Mills State Forest. Forest Rangers and personnel from DEC's Division of Lands & Forests and Division of Fish & Wildlife, state fire wardens, volunteers, and an Excelsior Corps crew. A DEC drone was deployed to better document the activity and assist land managers in evaluating the effectiveness of the fire. Footage from the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be used for training to further improve future prescribed burns.

Town of Shawangunk
Ulster County
Prescribed Fire:
On April 24, Forest Rangers Patrick Lee and Matthew Hettenbaugh participated in a prescribed fire on lands owned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) along the Shawangunk Ridge. The burn was led by USFWS staff. Personnel from DEC's Division of Fish & Wildlife, the Albany Pine Bush Commission, New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and a Pennsylvania wildland fire crew participated in the prescribed fire operation. The objective was to burn off dogwood vegetation to promote the growth of grasses for the habitat improvement of the Short-Eared Owl. Good weather and burning conditions resulted in a successful operation.

Burned land in a prescribed fire operation
prescribed fire team
smoke from a prescribed fire in the distance

Town of Lake Pleasant
Hamilton County
On April 24 at 6:44 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a male hiker suffering from the cold weather. He had hiked Pillsbury Mountain and by the time he got to the trailhead he did not believe he could make the 5-mile trek through the remaining snow to get back to his vehicle. He also believed he had frostbite. Two Forest Rangers responded along with a Hamilton County Sherriff's Deputy. A Ranger ATV and Sheriff UTV were utilized to locate the hiker. After his injuries were assessed by Rangers, he was taken back to his vehicle by 9:53 p.m.

Town of North Elba
Essex County
On April 24 at 7:11 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a female lost off the trail on Scarface Mountain due to icy trail conditions. Ray Brook had the caller contact Franklin County 911 to obtain her coordinates. The hiker spoke with a Ranger, but was unable to find the trail. At 9:18 p.m., Ranger Scott van Laer located the hiker in good health and began slowly descending the ice-covered trail with her. He assisted the subject back to her vehicle by 10:40 p.m.

REMINDER: Residential Brush Burning Prohibited in New York State Through May 14

DEC Forest Rangers would like to remind the public that warming temperatures increase the potential for wildfires. Several small wildfires were reported across the state this past week. It is important that people be very careful with any ignition source, particularly on sunny, dry, windy days. Prior to the greening up of trees and grasses, fuels (leaves, grasses, and dead wood and vegetation) are quickly dried by direct sun and low humidity, making them easy to ignite and increasing the potential for wildfires to spread rapidly.

All New Yorkers are reminded that the state burn ban remains in effect through May 14. Be sure to check the daily updates to the state's Fire Danger Map and visit DEC's website for more information on the burn ban.

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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