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For Release: Wednesday, March 25, 2020

DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights

Recent Forest Ranger Actions

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 North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On March 21 at 7:19 a.m., a caller contacted DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch requesting assistance to locate a 46-year-old woman from Greenwich who was overdue from hiking Marcy, Skylight, and Gray trails. The caller was concerned because the subject began her hike the day before at 4:30 a.m. and had not returned. Three Forest Rangers were dispatched and located the hiker's vehicle at the ADK Loj. New York State Police Aviation assistance was requested to fly the Four Corners, Summit, and Panther Gorge. Additional Rangers joined the search, as well as the Lake Colden Caretaker, who checked the area between Feldspar and Lake Tear of the Clouds. Attempts were made to ping the subject's phone, with no success. As Forest Rangers made sweeps of the trails at higher elevations, Forest Ranger Sarah Bode located the hiker on the trail. The woman hiked out on her own power at 2:53 p.m. and was brought to AMC Lake Placid for treatment.

DEC reminds hikers that they should always follow the Hiker Responsibility Code: be prepared for changing weather conditions, carry essentials in a day pack, use maps/guides to plan their trip, leave trip plans with friends or family, be realistic about fitness and skill level, check the weather forecast, have emergency phone numbers handy (911, DEC Emergency Dispatch: 518-408-5850, in the Adirondacks: 518-891-0235), and more. Check the DEC website for a complete list to prepare for a responsible hike.

New York State COVID-19 Response:
DEC personnel from across agency divisions and regions statewide are supporting the State's response to COVID-19. Personnel from more than 20 New York State agencies are working on response efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. DEC Forest Rangers' expertise in the Incident Command System (ICS) and experience in applying ICS to wide area searches and large wildland fire have made them a key part of this statewide effort.

Several DEC Forest Rangers are part of the New York State Incident Management Team, or IMT, an interagency team comprised of personnel from various state, county, and local agencies who represent a variety of disciplines. The IMT assists Incident Command personnel and emergency managers in ensuring a prompt, efficient, and organized response to complex incidents.

Two Forest Rangers sit at a table assisting local law enforcement and medical staff with COVID-19 response
Forest Rangers Howard Kreft (DEC Region 3) and John Scott (DEC Region 1) assist at COVID-19 drive-thru test site at Staten Island

Ban on Brush Burning:
With spring officially here, DEC reminds residents that the statewide ban prohibiting residential brush burning began March 16, and runs through May 14. Conditions for wildfires are heightened in springtime when most wildfires occur. Every spring as the snow melts and vegetation dries out, Forest Rangers and local first responders respond to wildfires caused by illegal spring debris fires. Complying with the burn ban prevents unnecessary burdens on and dangers to state resources and local responders, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. For more details, go to DEC's website.

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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