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For Release: Tuesday, January 7, 2020

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions from Dec. 20, 2019 to Jan. 5, 2020

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 Santa Clara
Franklin County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Dec. 31 at 2:45 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Franklin County 911 reporting that the Tupper Lake EMS squad was dispatched to site 95 of the Fish Creek Campground regarding a 19-year-old male from Lake Clear with a leg injury. Forest Ranger Pete Evans and Environmental Conservation Police Officer Nate Favreau responded to the scene. Upon his arrival, Officer Favreau met with New York State Police and found that the injury was the result of an accident involving a jet sled being pulled behind a pick-up truck. The operator lost traction due to icy road conditions, causing the truck to lurch. The sled then hit a tree and ejected the subject, causing an upper leg injury. The man was taken by Tupper Lake EMS to seek further medical assistance. All units were clear from the scene at 4:09 p.m.

Town of Cheektowaga
Erie County
Public Outreach:
On Jan. 1, Forest Ranger John Kennedy led a group of approximately 25 people on a hike at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve as part of New York State's "First Day Hike" program. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) and DEC invited New Yorkers to celebrate the New Year at one of the dozens of hikes at state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, trails, and public lands across the Empire State. The focus of the Reinstein Woods hike was to discuss hiking safety and the right gear to carry. One lucky hiker also won a 2020 Empire Pass.

Hikers pose for a group photo at the start of the First Day Hike
Forest Ranger Kennedy and First Day Hike participants at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve

Town of Birdsall
Allegany County
Public Outreach:
On Jan. 1, Forest Ranger Justin Thaine organized and led a hike at Jersey Hill State Forest and the adjacent Karr Valley Creek State Forest in the town of Birdsall, Allegany County, as part of the First Day Hike program. The event was attended by 33 participants despite cold and windy conditions. The hike started and ended at the site of the former Jersey Hill fire tower. A short presentation was given before the walk, with Forest Ranger Thaine talking about Ranger duties, his role in state land protection, the history of the fire tower, and Civilian Conservation Corps work done at State Forests. DEC Forester Theresa Draves also answered questions about forest management on the parcels. Fire Warden/Town of Birdsall historian Howard Hann, a former observer in the fire tower, told the attendees about how the fire tower operated and how towers were used to detect wildfires. Forest Ranger Thaine then led a four-mile loop hike.

Forest Ranger gives directions to hikers on their First Day Hike

Hikers pose for a group photo during their First Day Hike
Hikers during their walk of the Jersey Hill State Forest and adjacent Karr Valley Creek State Forest

Town of Collins
Erie County
Public Outreach:
On Jan.1, Forest Ranger Wayne Krulish led 15 hikers down the Holcomb Pond trail on the Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area property as part of New York State's First Day Hikes program. Forest Ranger Krulish led discussions about being a Forest Ranger, the hazards of Zoar Valley, rules and regulations unique to the area, and winter hiking safety and preparedness. DEC Forester Chris Enser also assisted on the hike and discussed current and historic forest management of the area.

Town of New Scotland
Albany County
Wilderness Search and Rescue:
On Jan. 2, Forest Rangers assisted Albany County Sheriff's Deputies and State Park Police with a search for a missing 25-year-old man from Albany who was dropped off at Thacher State Park by a rideshare vehicle on New Year's Eve at approximately 11 p.m. Forest Rangers and deputies split up into teams to search below the escarpment trail, near the visitor's center and the overlook parking lot. A crew of Sheriff's deputies located the man conscious and alert but unable to move due to his injuries. Utilizing various rope rescue system techniques, the man was successfully rescued from the woods below the cliff, carried to a staged helicopter, and flown to a local hospital.

Forest Rangers and local law enforcement pull a missing man to safety over a ledge

View from below the ledge where Forest Rangers and local law enforcement rescued a missing man
Albany County Sheriff's Deputies and DEC Forest Rangers use rope rescue techniques to rescue a missing man at Thacher State Park

Town of Fort Ann
Washington County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Jan. 5 at 2:53 p.m., Washington County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch from a 55-year-old man who became lost while hiking from the Pilot Knob trailhead. The caller stated that he wanted to get a better view of a nearby pond and hiked off the trail and up a hill, but became disoriented when one of his dogs ran away. The subject could not locate the trail again. Using coordinates provided by Washington County 911, Forest Ranger Melissa Milano determined the man was on a hill overlooking a nearby beaver pond on the east end of the trail. Forest Ranger Milano directed dispatch to advise the man to stay where he was while she proceeded to him from the Inman Pond trailhead off Sly Pond Road. Forest Ranger Milano located the man at 4:22 p.m. and assisted him back to the trail head. Once out of the woods, the hiker was given a ride back to his vehicle at the Pilot Knob trailhead and the scene was cleared at 6:18 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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