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For Release: Wednesday, June 24, 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 Norfolk
St. Lawrence County
Wildland Fire:
On June 15, Region 6 Forest Rangers responded to a wildland fire in the town of Norfolk. The homeowner was burning brush the previous day and thought the fire was out. Aided by light winds, near drought conditions, and fuel, the fire quickly burned roughly one-half acre before several local fire departments and Forest Rangers got the fire under control. Rangers put out hotspots and secured a fire line around it. The fire was completely out by the next day.

Towns of Truxton and Fabius
Cortland and Onondaga County
Missing Person:
On June 16, at 2 p.m., the Sherburne sub-office in Chenango County received a call reporting missing family members from Warners. The caller said his wife, three children ages 11, 10, and 3, and the family dog went hiking at Labrador Hollow Unique Area near Tinker Falls and did not return when expected. Forest Rangers contacted the woman and determined the hiking party veered from the marked trail onto a former skidder/logging trail. She reported the children were tired and scared, but uninjured and had water. Forest Rangers Chet Lunt and Mike Chappell arrived at the Tinker Falls parking lot at approximately 2:30 p.m., with the woman's husband. The three men began to hike in and at 2:45 p.m. the wife contacted them and provided GPS coordinates from her cellphone. At 3:15 p.m., Forest Rangers located the family in the town of Fabius, Onondaga County, just across the county line. The Rangers escorted the hikers out of the woods safely and everyone was on their way home by 4 p.m.

Green Mountain National Forest
Bennington, Vermont
Out-of-state Rescue:
On June 16 at 5:15 p.m., Forest Rangers Tony Goetke and John Gullen began responding with the New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation unit to assist with a health emergency via a mutual aid helicopter hoist request from the State of Vermont. NYSP received a request from Vermont officials looking for help with the rescue of a 41-year-old Bennington, Vermont, man who was experiencing chest pain and discomfort while hiking along the Long Trail in the Green Mountain National Forest. Once on scene, Ranger Goetke lowered Ranger Gullen from the helicopter to the hiker, and with help from the Southern Vermont Technical Rescue, they packaged the man into a litter and raised him into the helicopter. From there, NYSP Aviation transported the hiker to a nearby landing zone and turned him over to Wilmington Fire and EMS for transportation to a local hospital.

Forest Rangers help hoist a hiker up to the helicopter hovering above
Forest Rangers assist with helicopter rescue

Helicopter hovering in the sky as Forest Rangers pull each other up via rope
Helicopter picks up Forest Ranger Gullen after rescue

Town of Hunter
Greene County
Wilderness Rescue:
On June 17 at 1:35 p.m., Central Office Dispatch received a call reporting a 56-year-old man from Washington, D.C., falling ill after hiking to Inspiration Point along the Escarpment trail. Forest Ranger Rob Dawson contacted the man to learn his location and condition and Assistant Forest Ranger Aaron France, to start proceeding to the hiker's location. Ranger Dawson drove up the trail, evaluated the man, and transported him to the South Lake Spillway to a waiting ambulance. Hunter Ambulance transported the man to a local hospital for medical treatment.

Town of Thurman
Warren County
Wildland Fire:
On June 17 at 2 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Warren County 911 requesting Forest Ranger assistance with a wildfire in the town of Thurman. Forest Rangers Chuck Kabrehl and Art Perryman responded and assisted Thurman and Warrensburg fire departments with the fire that was threatening a structure on Dippikill Road. An investigation determined that the fire was likely caused by an electric line that ran from a home to a barn on the property. Rangers assisted in putting the fire out quickly.

City of Rochester
Monroe County
Helicopter Hoist Training:
On June 18, Forest Rangers from Regions seven, eight, and nine conducted helicopter hoist training in the city of Rochester. DEC works closely with New York State Police Aviation to conduct aviation missions for search and rescue missions and bucket drops for wildfire management. Download the video to view the helicopter hoist training (leaves DEC's website).

Helicopter hovering in the sky
Forest Ranger Helicopter Hoist Training in Rochester

Town of Webb
Herkimer County
Wilderness Rescue:
On June 19 at 4:58 p.m., Forest Ranger Dylan McCartney overheard radio traffic on the Herkimer County Sheriff's frequency of an injured 19-year-old hiker from Winslow, New Jersey, near the summit of Bald Mountain. Forest Rangers McCartney and Lincoln Hanna responded to the area, arriving at 5:25 p.m. The Rangers located the hiker and determined she had a non-weight bearing ankle injury. With assistance from the Old Forge Fire Department, Rangers McCartney and Hanna carried the hiker out from the Bald Mountain Fire Tower and down the mountain using carry out and low-angle rope techniques. Forest Rangers and fire department personnel reached the trailhead at 6:45 p.m., where the hiker was turned over to the Old Forge Ambulance and transported to a local hospital for treatment.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On June 20 at 8:25 a.m., staff from the ADK/Johns Brook Lodge contacted Ray Brook Dispatch via radio reporting a 43-year-old male hiker from Rochester had an unstable ankle injury on the Phelps trail, descending from Little Marcy. Forest Ranger Lt. Julie Harjung directed Forest Rangers to report to NYSP Aviation in Lake Clear while additional Forest Rangers and an Assistant Forest Ranger responded by hiking to the injured man's location. One Forest Ranger was inserted on the summit of Mt. Marcy by helicopter to look for the hiker. Forest Rangers hiking down the Phelps Trail located the hiker, assessed his injury, and splinted his lower leg. Forest Rangers radioed for a hoist extraction of the hiker and the helicopter flew him to Marcy Field to be transported by EMS to a local hospital.

Town of Berne, Cole Hill State Forest
Albany County
Wildland Fire:
On June 20 at 3:15 p.m., the Albany County Sheriff's Office requested Forest Ranger assistance with a brush fire at Cole Hill State Forest. Three Forest Rangers arrived on scene along with the Berne and East Berne volunteer fire departments. Together, the responders suppressed the remaining hot spots. The fire was determined to be 0.8 acres in size and declared out by 7:15 p.m.

Large area of land that has been burned due to fire
Fire extinguished at Cole Hill State Forest

Town of Brasher
St. Lawrence County
Wildland Fire:
On June 20 at 9:40 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from St. Lawrence County 911 requesting Forest Ranger assistance with a fire in the town of Brasher. Forest Rangers, along with the Brasher-Winthrop and Helena fire departments, worked on the fire believed to have been caused by a bonfire on private land that spread into the Brasher State Forest. Rangers declared the 1.3-acre fire out on June 22, 2020.

Town of Persia
Cattaraugus County
Wilderness Search:
On June 21 at 4 a.m., Cattaraugus County 911 contacted DEC's Central Dispatch reporting a lost hiker in Zoar Valley. Forest Ranger Bob Rogers responded and arrived on scene at 4:30 a.m. After conducting a brief interview with the hiker's companion and mother, Ranger Rogers searched the South Branch of the Cattaraugus Creek from the Valentine Flats parking area to the confluence, and upstream to the Forty Road area. In addition, the Rangers requested a Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Deputy to use his lights and siren as a passive means to attract the hiker's attention. Ranger Rogers located the 36-year-old hiker from Buffalo at 7:30 a.m., as volunteer firefighters from various departments began to arrive at the incident command post.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Pet Distress Reminder:
On June 21 at 2:45 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiker advising that they were coming down Giant Mountain when their 75-pound Golden Retriever collapsed about one mile from Chapel Pond parking lot. The hiking party had started their trip at approximately 7 a.m. up the Ridge Trail and neglected to bring enough water for their dog. About halfway up the trail, the dog began to struggle and the group turned around to head back down. The dog collapsed from heat exhaustion just above the junction for the Ridge Trail and Giants Nubble. An Assistant Forest Ranger working in the area was notified and quickly found the distressed dog. The dog was carried to the Washbowl waterhole and placed in the water. After cooling the dog and giving it time to rest and rehydrate, the dog was able to make it back down the trail without further assistance.

Every summer DEC's Forest Rangers receive calls for dogs in distress on hot summer days. Pet owners sometimes overestimate their pet's physically fitness and capacity to walk on scalding hot rocks. DEC warns pet owners to avoid bringing dogs hiking with them in the summer. Dogs are at risk of heat exhaustion and death. If a dog collapses from exhaustion, owners are advised to get the animal to a shaded area as quickly as possible and cool their feet, which is the most effective way to help an overheated dog.

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 Rangers in a large parking lot with white tents for COVID-19 testing
Forest Rangers work at the COVID-19 testing facility in Binghamton

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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