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For Release: Tuesday, February 25, 2020

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Forest Ranger Actions from February 10 to February 23, 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 2019, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 337 search and rescue missions, extinguished 74 wildfires that burned a total of 212 acres, participated in 29 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 645 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 2,507 tickets or arrests.

"DEC celebrates our 50th anniversary this year, but our Forest Rangers have been on the front lines for even longer, protecting New York's wildlife, natural resources, residents, and visitors for more than a century," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "The state's brave Forest Rangers have a vast knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and technical rescue techniques that are critical to the success of their missions in remote wilderness areas, rugged mountainous peaks, white water rivers, frozen lakes, and forested areas statewide. We are proud of the work our Forest Rangers perform and look forward to another 50 years and beyond of highly trained service."

Town of Webb
Herkimer County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Feb. 10 at 2:06 p.m., Forest Ranger Matthew Savarie overheard radio communications on Herkimer County 911 regarding a snowmobile accident just off Big Moose Road. Forest Ranger Savarie responded to the location and discovered a 66-year-old snowmobiler from New Hartford who may have suffered possible fractures to his leg and arm. With assistance from the Inlet and Big Moose Ambulance Squad, the man was packaged up and carried out to Big Moose Road where he was transported to a local hospital for further medical treatment.

Town of Allen
Allegany County
Flat Ice Rescue Training:
On Feb. 13, Region 9 Forest Rangers conducted a flat-ice rescue training on Allen Lake, a popular destination for water-based recreation in the Allen Lake State Forest. Rangers practiced rescuing a victim from the water using throw ropes, reach poles, and self-extraction, and simulated rescuer techniques including the use of an inflatable kayak. Forest Ranger John Kennedy utilized a new technique by maneuvering an UAV drone to drop a personal flotation device to help secure a victim before other rescuers extracted him from the ice.

DEC reminds New Yorkers to be safe when heading out on the ice. The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be taken as evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. For more information about being safe on the ice, go to DEC's Ice Fishing website.

Forest Ranger in a large cut-out section of ice on a lake
Forest Rangers in Allegany County conduct flat ice training exercise

Village of Mayville
Chautauqua County
Public Outreach:
On Feb. 15, Forest Ranger Nathan Sprague attended Chautauqua County's Ice Castle Festival in the village of Mayville. Ranger Sprague, along with New York State Police, State Park Police, and the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department, displayed agency snowmobiles, spoke with attendees about snowmobile safety, and patrolled the area for safety compliance. Approximately 1,000 people attended the ice festival.

Forest Rangers and local law enforcement pose for a picture on the ice in front of a large ice castle
Forest Ranger Sprague (center) attends the Chautauqua County Ice Castle Festival

Town of Clifton
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Feb. 15 at 10:02 a.m., St. Lawrence County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a snowmobile accident on the Grass River Easement in the town of Clifton. Forest Rangers Will Benzel, Peter Morehouse, and Nathan Shea responded to the location to assist Cranberry Lake Fire and Rescue. A 26-year-old male snowmobiler from Pennsylvania sustained significant injuries after being ejected from his snowmobile after hitting a tree. At 12:15 p.m., the man was flown by Life Flight to a nearby hospital and all personnel were cleared of the scene.

Town of Wilmington
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Feb. 21 at 3:49 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a request to assist a 56-year-old male and an 18-year-old male from Boston, Massachusetts, who became disoriented after out-of-bounds skiing at Whiteface Mountain. Forest Rangers Kevin Burns and Rob Praczkajlo arrived on scene at 4:09 p.m. and began interviewing the missing men's family members. The family assisted the Forest Rangers with a Snap Chat program, which helped to locate the lost skiers. Rangers then requested the men call 911 to ping their cellphone for an exact location. Based on coordinates provided by Essex County 911, a map of their location was generated and Forest Rangers directed the subjects to walk to a designated location. The skiers exited the woods at 5:16 p.m., and were met by Rangers. The two men were transported to Whiteface Mountain Medical Services. The pair signed off on medical attention, and the incident concluded at 5:45 p.m.

Town of Bolton
Warren County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Feb. 23 at 7:53 p.m., Warren County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch from two hikers on the Northwest Bay Trail. The hikers started their hike that morning and one of them, a 36-year-old male from Selden, was suffering from exhaustion and dehydration. Coordinates obtained through 911 placed the hikers about four miles from the Clay Meadows Trail. Forest Ranger Evan Donegan responded, along with the Bolton Landing Fire Department and their airboat. At 8:31 p.m., the responders were on Lake George and heading to the hikers' last known location. They were located at 9:23 p.m., returned to shore, and hiked back out to the trailhead.

Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC's Hike Smart NY and Adirondack Backcountry Information webpage for more information.

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