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For Release: Tuesday, April 14, 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 Shandaken
Ulster County
Wilderness Rescue:
On April 7 at 12:52 a.m., the Ulster County Sheriff's Office contacted DEC's Central Dispatch requesting assistance with a search for a 26-year-old missing woman from the town of Shandaken. The woman's mother contacted the Shandaken Police Department at 10 p.m., and police responded along with a New York State Police (NYSP) canine unit. Forest Ranger Kevin Slade arrived at the woman's residence and interviewed her mother. Rangers Slade and Anastasia Allwine then hiked behind the residence to conduct a search in the Slide Mountain Wilderness Area. Forest Rangers Philip Parlier, Cameron Sweeney, Griggsby Cowart, Jeffrey Breigle, Stephen Ellis, and Katherine Fox also responded and began searching neighborhood homes, outbuildings, and public and private lands. At 9:50 a.m., Ranger Ellis located the missing woman approximately two miles from her home on state land. Ranger Ellis drove her back to her residence where she was evaluated by Shandaken Rescue. All Rangers were cleared of the scene at 10:45 a.m.

Village of Warsaw
Wyoming County
Wilderness Rescue:
On April 8 at 11:23 p.m., NYSP in Batavia contacted DEC's Central Dispatch requesting assistance in locating a missing 13-year-old boy in the village of Warsaw. The boy was playing with friends near his home when he went missing. Forest Ranger Lt. Tim Flanigan responded to the scene to conduct interviews and assist with the search. Forest Ranger John Kennedy also responded and conducted drone flights while the Warsaw Police Department, Wyoming County Sheriff's Office, friends, family, and volunteers searched the area. On April 9 at 5:45 a.m., Warsaw Police Officer Nick Wright located the boy and transported him back home where he was evaluated by Warsaw Ambulance and turned over to his parents. Ranger Kennedy interviewed the boy and discovered that at approximately 7 p.m., he was playing tag with his two brothers and a friend in a wooded area near his residence when the group ran ahead without him. He could not catch up with the others and became disoriented. After walking for some time, he saw lights and started heading in that direction. He came out of the woods at a nearby hardware center and sat on a bench. Officer Wright spotted the boy there and helped him to return home. Rangers were cleared of the scene at 8 a.m.

Town of Dresden
Washington County
Wilderness Rescue:
On April 11 at 7:35 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiker reporting his brother was overdue returning from Black Mountain. The caller stated that they last saw the 15-year-old male from Hudson Falls on the summit of Black Mountain at 5:30 p.m., when he proceeded down the trail alone. The teen was reported as having only his cell phone and the clothes he was wearing. Forest Rangers Evan Donegan and Mark St. Claire responded to the location, and at 8:15 p.m., Dispatch established text contact with the hiker and advised him to call 911. Washington County 911 got coordinates from his call, which placed him by a stream off the trail but near a road. Ranger St. Claire proceeded down the road from the trailhead where he was able to see the hiker's cell phone light. Ranger St. Claire located the hiker, escorted him out of the woods, and gave him a ride back to the trailhead where he was met by his family. All Rangers were cleared from the scene at 9:26 p.m.

DEC Headquarters
Forest Ranger Promoted

Congratulations to Forest Ranger Jaime Laczko on receiving his Captain bars from DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. Laczko was promoted from Lieutenant on April 2, 2020. Captain Laczko will be responsible for emergency management and response for the Division of Forest Protection's Albany headquarters. He will work closely with the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Northeast Fire Protection Commission, and will serve as agency contact to DEC's federal agency wildfire partners.

Forest Ranger stands in a hallway awaiting Commissioner to adhere his Captain bars
DEC Commissioner Seggos presents Captain bars to Ranger Laczko (left)

New York State Covid-19 Response:
DEC personnel from across agency divisions and regions statewide continue to support the State's response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. 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.

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