Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

For Release: Wednesday, May 27, 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 across New York State.

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 Brasher
St. Lawrence County
Wildland Fire:
On May 18 at 2:56 p.m., Region 6 Forest Rangers overheard a call by St. Lawrence County 911 about a five- to six-acre fire off Murray Road in the town of Brasher. Forest Rangers assisted 10 area fire departments using ATV firefighting apparatus and hand tools. A Ranger drone mapped the fire at 14 acres as the fire spread through dry vegetation in swamps and wooded areas. Low humidity and high temperatures, before the leaf growth, helped to spread this fire caused by the landowner burning brush.

smoky woodsy area burning
Burning brush caused by fire in St. Lawrence County

Town of Waverly
Franklin County
Wilderness Rescue:
On May 18 at 5:43 p.m., Franklin County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch from two hikers lost on Azure Mountain in the Debar Mountain Wild Forest. The 18-year-old female and 19-year-old male from Massena went off trail on the way up the mountain and failed to find the trail again on the way back down. Forest Ranger Scott Sabo responded to the trailhead off Blue Mountain Road. Coordinates obtained through 911 placed the hikers about 0.6 miles north of the trailhead and 0.5 miles from Blue Mountain Road. At 7:12 p.m., Ranger Sabo located the lost hikers and escorted them back to the trailhead to their vehicle.

Camp Smith
Westchester County
Multi-Agency Training:
On May 19, Region 3 Forest Rangers attended bucket training along with New York and Connecticut Army National Guard Aviation units at Camp Smith in Westchester County. The training furthers the Tri-State Wildland Firefighting Task Force initiative.

Forest Rangers sit and stand in a field awaiting direction for training
Forest Rangers attend bucket training in Westchester County

Forest rangers sitting in helicopter awaiting takeoff
Forest Rangers board helicopter for bucket training in Westchester County

Town of Kortright
Delaware County
Wilderness Search:
On May 19 at 6:15 p.m., Delaware County 911 contacted DEC's Central Dispatch requesting Forest Ranger assistance in the search for a 79-year-old woman last seen near a residence in Kortright. The woman wanted to help collect firewood and took a five-gallon bucket with her when she went missing. She was reported to be wearing a red hat, dark red vest, and black pants with orange shoes. New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation flew over the property while both NYSP and DLE K9 searched nearby woods. Forest Rangers Stephen Ellis, Jenna Curcio, Katie Fox, and Erin Stoddard searched a wooded area behind the house and located a set of footprints. Shortly thereafter, Ranger Fox found the bucket and the missing woman. Ranger Fox escorted the woman out of the woods for evaluation by waiting EMS, and it was determined that additional medical attention was not needed. The Delaware County Sheriff's Office and Hobart and Stamford Fire Departments assisted with this search.

Town of Wilmington
Essex County
Wilderness Search:
On May 21 at 3:20 p.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch from two hikers on the Flume Knob Trail in the Wilmington Wild Forest. The hikers were requesting assistance because one of the pair had a lower leg injury. While descending the mountain, a 56-year-old woman from National Park, New Jersey, made an incorrect step, injuring her leg, and was unable to put any weight on it. Essex County 911 provided coordinates that placed the hikers near the trail for Bears Den Mountain, slightly off course from the trailhead. Forest Rangers James Giglinto, Benjamin Baldwin, and Scott Sabo responded to assist, along with the Wilmington Fire Department. At 4:35 p.m., Ranger Giglinto was with the injured hiker. He splinted her leg and they began to slowly start walking back out to the trailhead at Whiteface. At 5:21 p.m., the hiker and Rangers were back at the trailhead and the hiker was transported to a local hospital for further medical treatment.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Search:
On May 24 at 6:34 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a female hiker who lost the trail from the Giant Washbowl back to the Roaring Brook trailhead. Per Forest Ranger Lt. Chris Kostoss, the hiker was asked to call 911 for her coordinates. Essex County 911 provided three sets of coordinates as Dispatch attempted to assist the hiker back to the trail using her compass and the coordinates provided. After those attempts failed, Forest Ranger James Giglinto responded to the Roaring Brook trailhead to assist. The 47-year-old hiker from Plattsburgh was located at 8:53 p.m., and back to the trailhead and out of the woods by 9:45 p.m.

Town of Harrisville
Lewis County
Wildland Fire:
On May 24, DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from St. Lawrence County 911 asking for Forest Ranger assistance for a wildland fire on Jayville Road in the town of Harrisville. A landowner burning brush during low humidity and high heat caused the fire. The fire was held to 1.2 acres thanks to the immediate response by five local fire departments. Forest Rangers used ATV fire apparatus to mop up the fire and put out hot spots. The fire was out by the afternoon of May 25.

Town of Austerlitz
Columbia County
Wildland Fire:
On May 25, four individuals were camping at Harvey Mountain State Forest at approximately 3:30 p.m. when they left their campsite and a smoldering campfire unattended. The fire crept out of the fire pit, igniting nearby grass, and eventually burning 1.8 acres of forest, including the campers' tents and belongings. Forest Ranger John Gullen responded to the scene along with the Austerlitz, Spencertown, Red Rock, and Canaan fire departments to extinguish the fire. The leader of the group was issued a ticket for leaving an open fire unattended.

burned remains of a tent in the woods
Unattended campfire spreads, burning tent

Adirondacks, DEC Region 5
Multiple Counties
Wildland fires:
DEC Forest Rangers remained busy of the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend dealing with several wildfires in Region 5. A cold, dry spring delayed green up of vegetation throughout much of the Adirondacks resulting in nine wildfires. These fires, burning approximately 40 acres, ranged in size from less than one acre to more than 20 acres. A number of these fires were caused from downed power lines and unattended campfires. Two of the fires remain under investigation.

DEC continues to remind New Yorkers to take proper steps to prevent wildfires. Visit DEC's FIREWISE New York website, with tips on protecting homes and communities. Tips to promote fire safety while camping include:

  • Use existing campfire rings when possible.
  • Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass and leaves. Pile any extra wood away from the fire.
  • Campfires must be less than three feet in height and four feet in diameter. Only charcoal or untreated wood can be used as fuel. A good bed of coals or a small fire surrounded by rocks gives plenty of heat. Scrape away litter, duff, and any burnable material within a 10-foot diameter circle. This will keep the campfire from spreading.
  • Be sure your match is out. Hold it until it is cold.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a small breeze could cause the fire to spread quickly.
  • Drown the fire with water. Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Move rocks as there may be burning embers underneath.
  • Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. If you do not have water use dirt. Do not bury your coals as they can smolder and break out.
  • Consider using a small stove for cooking in remote areas versus making a campfire.

Forest ranger stands at edge of wildfire in the woods
Rangers fight wildfires over Memorial Day Weekend

Forest Ranger helps extinguish fire in the woods
Forest Rangers help douse wildfires in Adirondacks

Forest Ranger walking through a fire-ridden forest floor while using extinguisher
Several wildfires break out across Adirondacks over Memorial Day Weekend

Multiple Counties
Patrols for Public Safety and Increased Visitors:
Memorial Day Holiday Weekend brought an influx of visitors to the Adirondacks. In anticipation of this increase, Forest Rangers worked with members of DEC's Division of Lands and Forests, Division of Law Enforcement, and Public Outreach, as well as NYSP, local officials, and representatives from the State Department of Transportation to develop a strategic plan. The result was increased public outreach, real-time messaging provided by roadside message boards, and strict enforcement of parking at busy trailheads, particularly in the High Peaks and Shelving Rock areas. With significant support from State Troopers, the busy State Route 73 corridor in the High Peaks and the Shelving Rock area were heavily patrolled and closely monitored. Forest Rangers and Assistant Forest Rangers were present at trailheads and on the trail to provide education and information regarding social distancing and backcountry safety. A total of 45 tickets were issued for traffic infractions. As the Adirondacks continues to see increased spring visitation numbers, Rangers will continue to work with multiple DEC divisions and public and private partners to manage usage at popular destinations.

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.

Forest Ranger stands with other emergency response at COVID testing site
Forest Ranger Bruce Lomnitzer on monitoring duty at COVID-19 testing site in Buffalo

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.

  • Contact for this Page
  • Press Office - Jomo Miller
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-1016
    email us
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions