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For Release: Tuesday, March 5, 2019

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions for 2/18 - 2/24/19

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."

Recent missions carried out by DEC Forest Rangers include:

Town of Fine
St. Lawrence County
Snowmobile accident:
On March 1 at 2:42 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch was advised of a snowmobile accident on the St. Lawrence and Lewis County line. A 54-year-old subject had collided with a tree 11 miles back into the Aldrich Pond Wild Forest. Six Forest Rangers responded to the scene and medical personnel from Lewis County were flown in by helicopter to a location near the Harrisville Rod and Gun Club. From that location, these emergency responders were transported by snowmobile to the injured subject's location. The subject was treated at the scene by the Harrisville Fire Department and emergency responders and transported out by a rescue toboggan to a waiting Life Flight helicopter. The subject was then transported to the hospital for further treatment. The incident concluded at 4:30 p.m.

Town of Keene
Essex County
On March 2 at 5:32 p.m., two lost hikers on Mt. Marcy called DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch requesting assistance after they lost the trail in whiteout conditions. The hikers were directed to call 911 to obtain coordinates. After receiving this first set of coordinates, Forest Ranger Robert Praczkajlo directed the hikers to proceed back uphill. Through a series of calls, the hikers located the marked trail. Meanwhile, three Rangers left from the Adirondack Loj on snowmobiles to assist the hikers. Rangers made contact with the hikers at 11:46 p.m., and by 12:55 a.m., all units were out of the woods and clear of the incident.

Town of Webb
Herkimer County
Snowmobile Fatality:
On March 3 at 10:56 a.m., DEC Dispatch received a call from town of Webb Police Department requesting assistance with a snowmobile fatality. DEC Forest Rangers and ECOs responded, along with New York State Police and Old Forge Fire Department personnel. The State Police investigation determined that a 59-year-old male from Rome was operating a 2019 Polaris snowmobile eastbound on Woodhull Lake, Black River Wild Forest, when he struck a large rock protruding through the ice. The snowmobile became airborne and the man was ejected. The subject was subsequently located by two members of his snowmobiling party, who contacted 911. The investigation is continuing.

Town of Oppenheim
Fulton County
Snowmobile Enforcement:
On March 3 at approximately 11:30 a.m., while on snowmobile patrol in Lassellsville State Forest, Forest Rangers stopped a snowmobile with no registration sticker displayed. While interviewing a second snowmobile operator, the Rangers discovered the man was operating the snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol. The subject was arrested for snowmobiling while intoxicated (SWI) after a field sobriety test. He was transported to the State Police barracks in Fonda and turned over to a sober third party and released on appearance tickets returnable to the Town of Oppenheim Court on March 27.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) training:
Forest Rangers recently hosted an evaluation process for Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) teams of the Appalachian Region. Forest Rangers and Appalachian Mountain Rescue (NC) team members and Neil Van Dyke of the State of Vermont's Division of Public Safety/State Police assisted in the evaluation. The teams evaluated were: Stowe Mountain Rescue (VT); Allegheny Mountain Rescue (PA); and New Jersey Search and Rescue (NJ). MRA Teams are required to pass an evaluation every three years in wildland search skills and technical rescue skills in a four-season environment. All teams were tested and passed a technical evacuation from a high-angle, ice-filled gully, as well as a steep angle snow evacuation of an injured subject. Each team is scrutinized on details ranging from general mountaineering skills to patient care. On the second day, wildland search skills were tested with both a tabletop exercise and a lost person scenario. These evaluations keep each team on the same level across North America and provide for better partnerships and increased public safety.

Forest Rangers and MRA teams training on icy waterfall with ropes. Trainee climbing on icy waterfall connected by ropes.
Mountain Rescue Association teams from across the Northeast trained with DEC Forest Rangers

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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