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For Release: Tuesday, June 30, 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 Harrietstown
Franklin County
Wilderness Rescue:
On June 22 at 6:20 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a man reporting an injured hiker on the Sawtooth Mountain Range in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. The caller said he received a distress signal from a friend's personal locator device after a member of their hiking party sustained a non-weight bearing ankle injury. The group provided coordinates that placed the hikers deep in the wilderness approximately 2.5 miles off the Pine Pond trail. The hikers had enough provisions for three days and reported that a physician was part of their group. Forest Ranger Lt. Chris Kostoss advised the hikers that the safest course of action would be to retrieve the injured hiker the next morning. At 7 a.m., Forest Rangers Kevin Burns and Chris DiCintio headed to the New York State Police Aviation hangar in Lake Clear to prepare for a hoist operation to retrieve the 70-year-old injured hiker from Niagara. The helicopter lowered Ranger DiCintio down to the group of hikers and the Ranger splinted the man's injured ankle before putting him in a harness and assisting him to a suitable hoist location. The helicopter transported the injured man to a local hospital for medical treatment and returned to the scene to retrieve Ranger DiCintio before returning to the hanger.

Town of Fowler
St. Lawrence County
Wildland Fire:
On June 22 at 4:45 p.m., Region 6 Forest Rangers received reports of a wildland forest fire near Chub Lake. Two Forest Rangers arrived at 6 p.m. to find approximately 4.5 acres of active flames and a widespread ground fire. With darkness approaching, Forest Rangers ordered resources for the next day. On the morning of June 23, the fire grew to five acres. Rangers constructed a fire line around the perimeter to prevent further growth and constructed a hose lay with laterals to suppress the fire. On June 24, Rangers suppressed hot spots to eliminate any remaining ground fire. The fire remains in patrol status.

Town of Webb
Herkimer County
Wildland Fire:
On June 24 at 1:40 p.m., Herkimer County 911 contacted DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch requesting assistance with a backcountry wildfire on Panther Mountain. Four Forest Rangers responded to assist the Old Forge Fire Department with a one-acre smoldering wildfire in the cliffs and rocks at the Panther Mountain overlook, burning in deep spruce duff 0.6 miles from a private road. Volunteer firefighters and Rangers knocked down the fire, preventing its spread. Over the following three days, seven Rangers utilized a State Police Aviation helicopter with water bucket drops, hand tools, and set up a half-mile water hose pumping operation up 600 vertical feet in elevation to continually douse several areas of the fire with water. The fire is now in patrol status.

Aerial view of a wildfire smoking on a mountain
Smoke rises from Panther Mountain after wildfire outbreak

View above a smoky wildfire on a mountain
Forest Ranger douse wildfire hot spots on Panther Mountain

Firey and smoky scene on a mountain side
Forest Rangers monitor wildfire on Panther Mountain

Last week, DEC urged New Yorkers to practice the utmost safety when burning wood and brush outdoors during recent dry conditions. For information on open burning and campfire safety in New York, go to DEC's Open Burning in New York webpage and DEC's Fire Safety When Camping webpage.

New York State COVID-19 Response:
DEC personnel from across agency divisions and regions across New York 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 sits at a long wooden table while working at a COVID-19 testing site
Forest Ranger Lincoln Hanno works at COVID-19
testing facility at Griffiss Air Force Base

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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