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For Release: Wednesday, January 22, 2020

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions from January 13 to January 19, 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 North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Jan. 13, at 8:19 a.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from the Lake Placid Police Department regarding two hikers who did not return to their hotel in Lake Placid after hiking Whiteface Mountain. Ranger Kevin Burns responded to the area and located the hikers' vehicle at Connery Pond. An additional eight Rangers responded with UTVs and began sweeping the trail past Connery Pond to the Whiteface Summit. The 38-year-old male and 33-year-old female hiker from Ithaca had intended to summit Whiteface via the Connery Pond trail but never made it to the summit. After losing the trail and hiking through waist deep snow, they kept moving throughout the night and found the trail at 8 a.m. At 10:55 a.m., Ranger Robbi Mecus located the hikers just past the wilderness gate at Connery Pond, approximately one mile from the trailhead, and proceeded to walk out with them. The hikers reached the trailhead at 11:30 a.m., and were assessed for possible cold injuries. Both hikers declined further medical assistance and were cleared of the trailhead at 11:45 a.m.

Town of North Hudson
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Jan. 14, at 3:21 a.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Central Dispatch reporting an injury in the Dix Wilderness. The caller stated that his hiking partner, a 67-year-old male from Towaco, New Jersey, had broken his shoulder after a short distance fall on the Macomb Slide in the Dix range. The caller had to leave the injured hiker alone on the slide to walk out for help. Four Forest Rangers entered the woods at 5:40 a.m., with a six-wheeler and cold weather gear. The slide is approximately four miles from the trailhead and Rangers encountered icy conditions on difficult, remote terrain. The rescue crew reached the injured hiker at 8:34 a.m. Rangers warmed the hiker and waited for a second rescue crew to establish an evacuation method. Once the second crew was on scene, it was determined that the hiker would be carried/walked out due to weather conditions. The hiker was belayed in a harness by Ranger Benjamin Baldwin and carried 450 feet up on the steep angle terrain covered in loose rock and solid ice. Once off the slide, Forest Rangers walked with the hiker to staged ATVs for evacuation to the trailhead. Essex County EMS providers transported the hiker to a local hospital.

Snowy view from mountain looking down on the Forest Rangers making a rescue

Forest Ranges on a snowy slope during a rescue
Rangers navigate difficult conditions to evacuate a hiker in Dix Wilderness

Utsayantha Lake
Delaware County
Flat Ice Rescue Training:
On Jan. 17, the newest Forest Rangers in Region 4 participated in simulated flat ice and cold-water rescues at Utsayantha Lake. Instructed by Forest Rangers Rob Dawson and Jeff Breigle, participants rehearsed ice rescue techniques to simulate saving the life of a struggling person who had fallen into icy cold water. The Rangers use cold water gumby suits, throw bags, ice picks, and reach poles to annually practice this important skill.

Forest Rangers chest-deep in an icy lake practicing cold water rescues
Rangers practicing cold water rescues in Delaware County

Town of Brookhaven
Suffolk County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Jan. 18, Forest Ranger John Rusher overheard Suffolk County 911 radio traffic regarding a lost female in the Otis Pike Preserve. He responded along with multiple local agencies, Forest Ranger John Gagne, and DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs). While Rangers were searching the interior toward the woman's last known location, she found her own way out onto Hot Water Street, where she came upon an ECO who was staged on that road at 4:15 p.m. The 48-year-old woman from Stony Brook/Manorville was directed to the Manorville parking lot for evaluation by EMS. She declined medical treatment and further assistance and all units cleared the scene.

Town of Lexington
Greene County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Jan. 19, six Forest Rangers responded to a call from a hiker stating that his hiking partner had sustained an injury to her lower leg and needed assistance getting back to the trailhead. Rangers located the 59-year-old female hiker from Roxbury approximately 2.5 miles from the parking area near the summit of the trail-less, steep, and rocky Sherrill Mountain. Rangers warmed the injured hiker, provided first aid, and splinted her leg. The hiker was assisted back down the mountain by the Rangers where she was transported by her hiking partner to a nearby medical facility for further treatment of her injury.

Forest Rangers tending to hikers on a snowy trail
Ranger rescue on Sherrill Mountain

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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