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For Release: Monday, May 7, 2018

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions for 4/30 - 5/6/18

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 Lysander
Onondaga County
Prescribed Fire:
On April 30, Forest Rangers and staff from DEC's Division of Fish and Wildlife and Division of Lands and Forests conducted a 17-acre prescribed burn at the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area. The burn was conducted in grass fields to release bound nutrients, maintain and improve grassland habitat, and reduce the amount of encroaching woody vegetation. This project is anticipated to improve the grassland habitat for breeding, nesting, and foraging for many wildlife species, such as Henslow's sparrows, bobolinks, ringed-necked pheasant, and wild turkey.

Forest Rangesr in a field with a drip torch to ignite the burn unit
Forest Rangers use drip torches to ignite the burn unit

Town of Lake Pleasant
Hamilton County
On April 30, Forest Rangers followed up on a report from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department that a car had been parked at the Mason Lake Parking area since April 21. After contacting the family of the vehicle's owner, the Rangers determined that the subject, a 59-year-old male from Lisle, was planning a two-week hiking trip without a definitive end date. Forest Rangers were concerned about the subject due to recent weather in the area and other extenuating circumstances. Four Rangers began checking trailheads and registries with negative results. Search efforts continued for the next four days utilizing ATVs, Hamilton County Sherriff's Office UTVs, as well as a New York State Police helicopter. On May 4 at approximately 9:27 a.m., the subject was located in good health in the West Canada Lakes Wilderness.

Town of Harmony
Chautauqua County
On May 1 at approximately 3 p.m., the Panama Fire Department reported a wildfire that had reached an unoccupied house and barn. Forest Rangers responded and worked with local fire departments from Panama, Ashville, Busti, Bear Lake, Kiantone, and Lakewood to suppress the wildland fire and structure fires. The fire originated from unlawful burning of debris and spread quickly due to high winds. The Rangers issued two tickets for violations of the Environmental Conservation Law. Chautauqua County fire investigators are continuing to investigate the fire.

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 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.

Town of Coeymans
Albany County
Prescribed Fire:
On May 2, DEC Forest Rangers, staff from DEC's Division of Fish and Wildlife and Division of Lands and Forests, and Albany Pine Bush staff conducted a prescribed burn at the Louise E. Keir Wildlife Management Area off Blodgett Hill Road. Volunteers from the Coeymans Hollow Fire Department assisted. The prescribed burn occurred in a pitch pine shrub unit and an oak hickory leaf litter unit totaling 14.5 acres. The purpose of the burn was to restore the pitch pine oak rocky summit community, control undesirable species, and reduce fuels with the use of a controlled fire.

Forest ranger monitoring a controlled burn
Forest Ranger monitors burning activity

Town of Canisteo
Steuben County
Wildland Fire:
On May 2 at approximately 4:45 p.m., DEC Dispatch received a call from Steuben County 911 requesting Forest Ranger assistance with a wildland fire burning on a steep, south-facing slope inaccessible by vehicle. Due to fire activity, weather conditions, and difficult terrain, five Rangers responded to assist. Local volunteer fire companies also responded with wildland fire engines and UTVs. By 8 p.m., the fire was under control. Over the next four days, Forest Rangers patrolled the fire and continued to reinforce the control line and target interior hot spots. The fire was declared out on May 6. It burned a total of 43.6 acres. An investigation determined the fire was caused by tree branches in contact with power lines.

Firetruck responding to a forest fire on a hill
Wildland Fire

Town of Long Lake
Hamilton County
On May 2 at 5:14 p.m., DEC received a call from a 56-year-old woman from Sacketts Harbor who became lost after attempting to descend Owl's Head Mountain in Long Lake. Two Forest Rangers responded. One Ranger spoke directly to the subject and advised her to begin hiking back up the mountain. The subject made her way up onto the trail. Rangers located the subject in good health and she was assisted down the mountain back to the trailhead.

Town of Ticonderoga
Essex County
On May 5 at 1:01 a.m., DEC Dispatch received a request for assistance from the New York State Police for a 60-year-old female from Tupper Lake trapped under a large tree at Rock Pond near Putnam Pond Campground. With high winds, downed trees, and widespread power outages in the area, three Forest Rangers responded but were unable to drive to the location. The Rangers utilized a boat and had to cut through several felled trees to make it to the subject by 2:30 a.m. With continued high winds and heavy rain, Forest Rangers and local Fire Department personnel worked together to remove a large tree that had pinned the subject. She was packaged in a stokes litter, carried out to a boat, and brought across the pond to the Putnam Pond Campground Boat Launch, where she was turned over to Ticonderoga EMS. The subject was then flown by helicopter to a hospital in Vermont for treatment. The incident concluded at 7:30 a.m., and the patient remains in critical condition.

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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