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For Release: Tuesday, April 9, 2019

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions for 4/1 - 4/7/19

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."

Wildfire Prevention Reminder

High temperatures, low relative humidity, and strong winds across the southern and eastern parts of the state last week led to favorable conditions for the creation of wildfires, and DEC's Forest Rangers remained busy responding to 22 wildland fires across New York. The fires resulted in 72.6 acres burned. Nine of the fires were caused by strong winds downing powerlines and causing dry grass to burn, and two fires were sparked by embers blown from structure fires into adjacent woodlands. Eight of these fires were the result of people unlawfully burning debris in violation of the statewide burn ban.

Residential brush burning is prohibited March 16 through May 14 across New York State. New York prohibits residential burning during the high-risk fire season to reduce wildfires and protect people, property, and natural resources. The ban has been extremely effective in reducing the number of wildfires, and DEC is encouraging New Yorkers to put safety first. Historically, open burning of debris is the largest single cause of spring wildfires in New York State. When temperatures are warmer and the past fall's debris, dead grass, and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily and be further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation.

Town of Trenton
Oneida County
On April 3 at 4:30 p.m., while on routine patrol, Forest Ranger Robert Coscomb observed a large plume of smoke rising in the distance. A fully involved structure fire had spread to adjacent fields south of County Rt. 365. On scene, Forest Ranger Coscomb and three volunteer fire departments extinguished the six-acre wildfire while other departments battled the structure fire. The fire was believed to have originated from an outdoor wood boiler. The fire destroyed a house, barn, and several outbuildings. The 94-year-old landowner was rescued from his dwelling but subsequently passed away.

Large building in a field that is on fire and heavy black smoke is in the air.
Structure fire in town of Trenton, Oneida County,
that spread into adjacent fields due to strong winds

Town of Schuylerville
Saratoga County
On April 3 at 2:50 p.m., Saratoga County requested Forest Ranger assistance with a wildland fire near Lock 5 on Rt. 4 in the town of Schuylerville. Forest Rangers Lt. John Solan and Michael Bodnar responded and coordinated with local volunteer firefighters to contain and extinguish the six-acre fire that had burned a grass field but threatened one structure. By 6 p.m., personnel contained the fire but had to respond to another fast-moving fire on East Lake Road in Cossayuna, Washington County. Lt. Solan and Ranger Bodnar were joined by Rangers Logan Quinn and Nancy Ganswindt and local volunteer firefighters to contain the fire, which was six acres. The fire was monitored overnight by Rangers Joseph Hess and Anthony Goetke due to the high concentration of dry debris and a nearby residence. Personnel completed mop-up operations the next morning.

Large field with some dark spots where the grass has burned.
Wildfire resulting from debris burning during strong winds

Town of Danby
Tompkins County
On April 3, Tompkins County 911 notified Forest Rangers of a wildfire off Larue Road. Forest Ranger Joan Oldroyd responded, arrived on scene at 12:35 p.m., and assisted the Danby and West Danby Fire Departments with mop up of the .5-acre fire. After a thorough patrol of the area, the fire was declared out. Residential debris burning that escaped and burned into light hardwood debris was to blame. Environmental Conservation Police Officer (ECO) Osman Eisenburg assisted with enforcement efforts.

Town of Blenheim
Schoharie County
Wildland Fire:
On April 3 at approximately 4:20 p.m., Central Dispatch received a call from Schoharie County 911 requesting Forest Ranger assistance with a wildland fire on Cole Hollow Road in the town of Blenheim, Schoharie County. The fire had started in an abandoned building and spread to an additional building on the property before spotting into the adjoining woods. Fire departments from Blenheim, West Fulton, Jefferson, Middleburgh, Conesville, Cobleskill, and Grand Gorge responded along with New York State Fire, Schoharie County SAR, Middleburgh EMS, County Medic, State Police, and the Schoharie County Sheriff's Department, in addition to four Forest Rangers. The crew was able to save one structure when the fire came within 10 feet. Fire companies secured a line around the 17.5-acre fire while Forest Rangers continued putting out hot spots until 10 p.m. On April 4, the fire was declared out.

Town of Barton
Tioga County
On April 3, Forest Ranger Joan Oldroyd was notified by Tioga County Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Simmons of a three-acre wildfire spreading near Talmadge Hill and Ellis Creek roads. Ranger Oldroyd arrived on scene at 4:25 p.m., and Waverly Fire Department completed the mop-up. Caused by a downed power line, the fire burned approximately three acres of heavy grass fuel.

Town of Blooming Grove
Orange County
On April 4 around 3:15 p.m., Forest Rangers were requested by the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to respond to a wildland fire in Schunnemunk Mountain State Park. The fire resulted from an escaped campfire near the Mountain Lodge residential community. Strong winds pushed the fire up the mountain into a mix of scrub vegetation and hardwood litter, eastward away from the community. Twelve Forest Rangers, State Parks personnel, an ECO, and approximately 200 members from local fire companies responded to the fire, which was highly visible from the State Thruway. Fire companies included Coldenham FD, Maybrook FD, Cornwall on Hudson FD, Kiryas Joel FD, Winona FD, Goshen FD, Cronomer Valley FD, and Woodbury FD. As a result of the quick response by personnel, the fire was contained to 20.4 acres by nightfall. No nearby structures or residences were threatened.

Two Forest Rangers in the woods where the ground has been burned, they are carrying some fire response equipment.
Forest Rangers survey fire in Schunnemunk Mountain State Park

Town of Norway
Herkimer County
Wildland Search:
On April 5 at 10 a.m., Forest Rangers Lt. Scott Murphy, Robert Piersma, Charles Richardson, and Scott Jackson assisted the State Police with a fugitive search in the town of Norway, Herkimer County. Herkimer County 911 reported to Lt. Murphy that a 24-year-old male had fled from police into the woods when approached regarding an attempted assault on his father. Through snow-covered and rough terrain, Rangers led efforts while ECO Corey Schoonover and K-9 Jake assisted. The subject was found in a nearby dwelling and taken into custody.

Town of St. Armand
Essex County
Wildland Rescue:
On April 7 at 4 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Franklin County 911 reporting a 30-year-old female from Baldwinsville near the summit of Baker Mountain. The subject had an unstable ankle injury. Four Forest Rangers responded and reached the injured hiker by 5 p.m. After assessing the injury and splinting the ankle, Rangers assisted the subject down the trail about a quarter of a mile. She was packaged into a rescue litter and carried to the trailhead. By 6:23 p.m., the woman was transferred to the Saranac Lake Rescue squad and transported to the Adirondack Medical Center for follow-up care.

Town of Harmony
Chautauqua County
On April 7 at noon, Ranger Zachary Robitaille responded to a call from Chautauqua County Dispatch regarding a grass fire on Weeks Road in the town of Harmony. The fire was growing out of control. Ranger Robitaille was on scene by 12:30 p.m., and spoke with the Panama Fire Chief who stated that the grass ignited from a burning garbage pile behind a garage. Panama FD, Bear Lake FD, and Clymer FD extinguished the fire. Ranger Robitaille interviewed the resident, who reported that they burn their winter garbage behind the garage in the spring. The resident stated that the fire from the garbage pile spread into the grass. Ranger Robitaille cold trailed the area of the fire and declared it out. Three minor injuries were reported.

Town of Chautauqua
Chautauqua County
Search Training:
Last week, Rangers Robitaille and Nathan Sprague conducted monthly training with the Chautauqua Area Search Team at the Chautauqua Gorge State Forest. The group utilized land navigation skills with maps, compasses, and GPS to traverse a land navigation course. Participants then checked themselves against pre-established points for accuracy and time to complete the course.

Forest Rangers and Chautauqua Area Search Team members standing in the woods getting instructions on land navigation.
Chautauqua Area Search Team members and Forest Rangers
trained in land navigation skills for search and rescue missions last week

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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