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For Release: Tuesday, March 19, 2019

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions for 3/11 - 3/17/19

NOTE: Starting this week, DEC's Forest Ranger highlights will now be issued on Tuesdays.

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:

Borough of Queens
Queens County
On March 13, Forest Ranger John Franceschina responded to two small wildfires caused by phragmites burning in Flushing Meadows Park. The wildfires totaled 1.1 acres and were suppressed by the New York City Fire Department. These were the first reported wildfires in the state, marking the beginning of the 2019 spring fire season.

Town of Huntington
Suffolk County
Technical Rope Rescue Training:
Forest Rangers from DEC Regions 1 and 2 recently conducted a technical rope rescue training event at West Hills County Park in Suffolk County. The training focused on the aspects of both lowering and raising a patient in steep angle terrain followed by a carryout. This training helps prepare Rangers for technical rope rescue missions across the state.

Two Forest Rangers in the woods on a hill, training with ropes. Four Forest Rangers conducting training on how to use ropes to rescue hikers
Rangers conducting rope training in Suffolk County

Town of Elizabethtown
Essex County
Wilderness Recovery:
On March 15 at 12:22 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance for a 51-year-old male hiker from Plattsburgh. The subject was in medical distress at the top of Blueberry Hill Trail. At the time of the call, Essex County 911 dispatch advised they would also be sending Elizabethtown Ambulance. Under Lt. Julie Harjung's authority, Rangers Robbi Mecus, Logan Quinn, and James Giglinto were dispatched to the hiker's location. As Rangers and EMS were responding, the subject went into cardiac arrest. Rangers and EMS performed CPR and employed an automated external defibrillator, but the subject remained unresponsive. New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation personnel arrived on scene and assisted with recovery efforts. The hiker was transferred to the Essex County Coroner.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Search:
On March 16 at 3:25 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a transferred call from Essex County 911 reporting three hikers from the Clifton Park area were lost on Giant Mountain. The three hikers - ages 21, 21, and 19 - required assistance to relocate the trail. Under Lt. Gary Friedrich's authority, Rangers Robert Praczkajlo and Kevin Burns were dispatched to the Giant Mountain Wilderness to search for the hikers. At 5:10 p.m., voice contact was made with the subjects. By 5:52 p.m., Rangers located the subjects in good but tired condition. The hikers were wearing sneakers and were unprepared for the backcountry hike. The subjects slowly made their way back to the trailhead and the incident concluded at 6:15 p.m.

Town of Black Brook
Clinton County
Wilderness Recovery:
At 2:04 p.m. on March 17, DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call through Franklin County 911 reporting a hiker in distress on Catamount Mountain in Clinton County. The caller reported that a 52-year-old male from Glen Falls had collapsed while taking a break and was unresponsive. Ray Brook Dispatch provided assistance to the caller and dispatched Forest Rangers to the scene at Taylor Pond Wild Forest. Under the direction of Ranger Lt. Gary Friedrich, Rangers Glen Bronson, David Russell, and Peter Evans responded with snowmobiles for rapid access to the patient. Au Sable Fork's Ambulance Service was also on scene with the New York State Police. Rangers made their way to the group by 2:30 p.m. After an hour of CPR, the male hiker was pronounced deceased.

Town of Shandaken
Ulster County
Wilderness Search:
At approximately 3:30 p.m. on March 17, DEC Central Dispatch received a call from Ulster County 911 regarding a stranded male hiker on Friday Mountain in the town of Shandaken. The hiker reportedly was having difficulty descending the mountain due to steep, icy terrain. The 59-year-old from New Windsor became disoriented and lost the trail. Under the direction of Lt. Robert Morse, Rangers Kevin Slade, Patrick Lee, Lincoln Hanno, Russel Martin, and Robert Stratton responded to the subject's location. The coordinates were unreliable, however, hampering search efforts. With nightfall approaching, Rangers contacted State Police Aviation out of Newburgh to assist in locating the subject. At 7:24 p.m., Rangers Stratton and Lee located the subject and escorted him back to the trailhead.

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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