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For Release: Wednesday, July 10, 2019

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

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

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."

Town of Lexington
Greene County
Documenting Trail Conditions:
On July 1, Forest Ranger Christine Nelson and Lt. David Pachan assisted DEC Natural Resource Planner Pine Roehrs and SUNY ESF intern Alexandrea Rice in collecting trail condition data on two trail-less peaks in the Hunter-West Kill Wilderness Area on Sherill and North Dome mountains. The crew was documenting the conditions of the herd path networks in DEC Regions 3 and 4. Due to intensifying use of these areas, there is an increase in disturbances to sensitive habitats and this effort aims to establish baseline data that can be used by land managers to inform future planning efforts.

Three people working on the trail standing among the trees and a large rock
Natural Resource Planner Pine Roehrs, Intern Alexandrea Rice, and Ranger Christine Nelson on the peak of North Dome Mountain

Town of Elizabethtown
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 2 at 1:43 p.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch from hikers on Owls Head Lookout in the Giant Mountain Wilderness Area reporting a 25-year-old female hiker from Hamilton, Massachusetts, exhibiting signs of heat stress. Coordinates obtained through Essex County 911 placed the hikers on the 2,500-foot summit. Forest Rangers Kevin Burns, Peter Evans, and Lt. Julie Harjung initiated a rescue plan and coordinated with New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation Unit in Lake Clear. Additional Forest Rangers Mark St. Claire, Glen Bronson, and Charles Kabrehl staged with Keene/Keene Valley Backcountry Rescue teams and Elizabethtown Fire Department personnel to assist with a carry-out if needed. After locating the subject near the summit, Ranger Evans and Lt. Harjung were lowered in by helicopter and found the hiker conscious and responsive. After the hiker was evaluated and stabilized, they placed her in a litter and evacuated her to a local hospital by 3:40 p.m. for further medical treatment.

The shadow of the helicopter against the mountain
NYSP Aviation unit locating the heat-stressed hiker

Town of Warsaw
Wyoming County
On July 3, Forest Ranger John Kennedy joined Smokey Bear in celebrating Smokey's 75th Anniversary in the annual parade through downtown Warsaw. Various organizations attended the parade including NYSP, Wyoming County Sheriff's Department, and local area fire departments. Roughly 2,000 people attended this popular holiday parade.

Forest Ranger John Kennedy and Smokey Bear in an automobile
Forest Ranger John Kennedy and Smokey Bear ride through Warsaw parade

Town of Minerva
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 3 at 2:45 p.m., NYSP in Albany contacted DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a broken cell phone call from lost hikers along the Hudson River in Minerva. Forest Ranger Benjamin Baldwin was dispatched to respond to the 911 coordinates given. The two lost hikers, a 14-year-old boy from Gansevoort and a 15-year-old boy from Delray Beach, Florida, confirmed they had been separated from their group while hiking the Blue Ridge Trail. Text contact was established with the hikers and they were directed to stay in place. At 3:55 p.m., Forest Ranger Baldwin met with a mother of one of the boys at the trailhead while the father looked for the boys by the river. Forest Ranger Mark St. Claire followed a nearby route. Forest Ranger Baldwin located the boys at 4:41 p.m., in good health approximately two miles from where they separated on the trail.

Town of Johnsburg
Warren County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 3 at 4:06 p.m., the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office advised DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch of a female hiker on Crane Mountain with an ankle injury. Four Forest Rangers responded, and at 6:09 p.m., Forest Ranger Charles Kabrehl met up with the hiker from Grandville, Michigan, and advised dispatch. The hiker had a non-weightbearing leg injury in a steep section of trail that would involve a technical rope rescue. With limited daylight remaining, NYSP Aviation was requested to respond for a hoist operation. The Garnet Lake and Johnsburg fire departments established a nearby landing zone for the helicopter. Forest Ranger Ian Kerr boarded the helicopter as hoist operator and by 8:25 p.m., the hoist was successfully completed. The hiker was taken to the landing zone and transferred to Johnsburg EMS for transport to a local hospital.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Recovery:
On July 3 at 8:14 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Essex County 911 reporting a hiker who spotted a deceased person at the bottom of the Cascade Waterfall at Cascade Day Use Area. Forest Rangers, NYSP, local fire departments, Keene/Keene Valley Back Country Rescue, and Keene/Keene Valley EMS were dispatched to the scene. Upon arrival, Forest Rangers confirmed the report and developed a recovery plan. After documentation of the scene, the Essex County Coroner authorized the recovery of the body. The incident remains under investigation by NYSP with help from DEC's Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI) unit. Utilizing steep angle rescue techniques, the body was lowered to the parking area below and transported to a local hospital at 10:48 p.m. The incident remains under investigation.

Town of Dannemora
Clinton County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 4 at 9:51 p.m., NYSP in Plattsburgh contacted DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting an adult with two children from Ellenburg Depot were lost on Lyon Mountain. Dispatch texted the lost hikers requesting they call 911 for coordinates. Forest Rangers David Russell and Scott Sabo responded and began hiking to the reported coordinates. The subjects were located at 12:12 a.m., in good condition sitting beside a campfire. Forest Ranger Russell helped the hikers extinguish the fire and brought them back to the trailhead by 1:50 a.m.

Town of Macomb
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 5 at 12:55 p.m., a call came in to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch from Forest Ranger Nathaniel Shea reporting county radio traffic about two male hikers suffering from heat-related illness in the Fish Creek Wildlife Management Area. Forest Rangers Shea, Peter Morehouse, and Joshua Hogan responded. One hiker was suffering from heat exhaustion with associated vomiting and altered mental status. With the assistance of local fire departments and State Park Police, the 24-year-old hiker from Ogdensburg was cooled, and both hikers were walked to a waiting ambulance for further treatment by 3:15 p.m.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 5 at 4 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a radio transmission from Assistant Forest Ranger Ethan Engel that a 22-year-old female hiker from West Seneca had sustained an ankle injury at the Lake Colden Dam. Forest Ranger James Giglinto responded and met the NYSP Aviation Unit in Lake Clear. Lake Colden Caretaker, Wade Bastian, responded with a rowboat to assist with retrieving the injured hiker. The hiker was brought back to the outpost, where the NYSP helicopter successfully picked her up and transported her to a local hospital for further treatment. At 4:40 p.m., while the helicopter was en route to the hospital with the first hiker, DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a phone call from a 36-year-old male hiker from Cambridge, Massachusetts, who had sustained a non-weightbearing ankle injury while hiking McKenzie Mountain in the Town of St. Armand. Forest Ranger Scott VanLaer responded to Lake Placid Airport to meet NYSP Aviation. Coordinates were obtained through Essex County 911 and Forest Ranger VanLaer was lowered down to the trail, where he located the injured hiker. From there the hiker was secured into a harness and raised back up into the helicopter by Forest Ranger James Giglinto. VanLaer remained on the ground where he escorted the remaining members of the hiking party to the parking lot. Aviation delivered the injured hiker to a local hospital where he received further medical care.

NYSP Aviation helicopter in the air
NYSP Aviation executing a hoist operation with DEC Forest Rangers

Town of Dickinson
Franklin County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 5 at 6:44 p.m., radio communications came in to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch from Forest Ranger David Russell who overheard radio traffic from Franklin County 911 regarding an ATV accident in the Deer River State Forest. Forest Ranger Russell responded to assist NYSP and Franklin, Bangor, and Malone EMS with the accident involving a 16-year-old female and 17-year-old male from Plattsburgh. The two teenage riders were reported as traveling at excessive speed. At 7:54 p.m., the teens were transported to a local hospital for additional medical care and were reported to be in serious condition.

Town of Fishkill
Dutchess County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 6 at noon, Forest Ranger Martin Hanno received a call from DEC Dispatch regarding a lost hiker in Hudson Highlands State Park near Mount Beacon. The hiker had initially hiked from the Beacon fire tower parking lot but had turned around at a point on the trail and, rather than hike back down the mountain, she continued along the ridge two miles in the wrong direction. At this point she called 911 stating she was lost, dehydrated, and had used the last of her water. Forest Ranger Hanno instructed the 29-year-old hiker from Poughkeepsie to stay where she was. Using cellphone coordinates, Forest Rangers Hanno and Patrick Lee hiked in from an access road and found the hiker by 2 p.m. She was returned to her vehicle and declined medical treatment.

Town of Persia
Cattaraugus County
Wildland Search and Rescue:
On July 6 at 3 p.m., Cattaraugus County 911 Dispatch received a call from two subjects who were hiking in the South Branch of the Cattaraugus Creek when localized heavy rains forced water from the creek bed into the woods. The hikers were unaware of how to return to their vehicle parked in the DEC parking area in the Zoar Valley Unique Area. Forest Ranger Robert Rogers, Wayne Krulish, Assistant Forest Ranger Feather, and members of the Gowanda Fire Department and Gowanda Ambulance Company responded to the area. Cattaraugus County was able to get a cell phone location from the 911 call. Forest Ranger Rogers, Feather, and members of the Gowanda FD operated a UTV along trails of The Nature Conservancy's Deer Lick Preserve and then hiked the remaining half mile to the location of the coordinates. As the search team approached, Forest Ranger Rogers made contact with the two individuals and guided them back to the remaining rescuers for the final hike back to the UTVs and a motorized evacuation.

Town of Shandaken
Ulster County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 7, a father hiking with his family on Wittenberg Mountain had bailed out early from hiking with his wife and three children (ages 11, 16, and 18). While waiting for them to return, he was notified by another hiker that the group might be in trouble after hearing a woman calling for help off the trail and coming across three teenagers looking for their mom. The father notified the Woodland caretaker who then contacted Forest Ranger Kevin Slade to respond. While interviewing the father, the 16-year-old daughter came out of the trail to get help and confirmed that they had made voice contact with her mother but described her as downhill off the trail and possibly injured. Forest Ranger Slade went into the woods and located the group approximately two miles from the trailhead at 9 p.m. With Forest Ranger Russell Martin's assistance, the group was returned safely to the trailhead by 11:30 p.m.

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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