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For Release: Tuesday, July 7, 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 Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On June 30 at 7:48 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiker reporting that her hiking partner was overdue coming off Lower Wolfjaw Mountain. The hiker had last seen her friend at a junction labeled for Lower Wolfjaw on their descent at approximately 4:45 p.m., when the caller took both of their gear and proceeded ahead to make things easier for her slower companion. Forest Ranger Rob Praczkajlo headed to the security house at the Ausable Club and proceeded to drive down the lake road to the start of the Wedge Brook trail for Upper and Lower Wolfjaw. At 10:05 p.m., Ranger Praczkajlo advised that he was with the 45-year-old hiker from Gloversville. The woman had hiked down the trail and followed Wedge Brook, off trail, down to the Ausable River. A group of hikers found her at the river and assisted her back to the trail where they were met by Ranger Praczkajlo who then escorted her down to the lake road and gave her a courtesy ride to join her friend at the gate house.

Town of Thompson
Sullivan County
Wilderness Search:
On June 30 at 8:45 p.m., Sullivan County 911 contacted DEC's Central Dispatch requesting Forest Ranger assistance on behalf of the Rock Hill Fire Department to search for three lost hikers at the Neversink Unique Area. The hikers from Morristown, New Jersey, reported they were hiking on the blue trail, had crossed two bridges, and bushwhacked up a steep mountain. The hikers' father provided coordinates that placed the missing 21- and 18-year-old males and 15-year-old female approximately 2,300 feet east of the blue trail on top of a steep ravine, 4.3 miles from the trailhead. Forest Rangers Anastasia Allwine and Robert Stratton, along with Assistant Forest Ranger Bailey Mitchell and members of the Rockhill and Westbrookville fire departments, responded to the hikers' last known location to begin the search. Rangers and two members of the Rockhill Fire Department located the trio at 1:28 a.m., escorted them out of the woods, and brought the group back to the trailhead by 5:30 a.m.

Town of Newcomb
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue
: On July 2 at 1:08 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiker near the summit of Goodnow Mountain reporting a 16-year-old female hiker from Ogdensburg had suffered a lower leg injury while on a steep section of terrain. Forest Rangers Andrew Lewis and Chuck Kabrehl responded, located the injured hiker, and splinted her injured ankle. Forest Ranger Jamison Martin and Assistant Forest Ranger Brendan Jackson also responded along with members of the Newcomb Fire Department and volunteers to help carry the hiker back to the trailhead. Back at the trailhead, Newcomb EMS evaluated the woman.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 2 at 4:03 p.m., Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) security contacted DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting an injured hiker on Gothics Mountain. A group had driven to the AMR lake road gate and notified staff at the gate that the hikers received a call from friends on the mountain at 3:15 p.m., stating that one of their group had an injured knee. The 20-year-old woman from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, was still able to walk on the injured knee and was hiking down with her father. The father and daughter planned to hike from Beaver Meadow Falls to the lake road. Forest Ranger James Giglinto responded to the lake road and proceeded down to the access point for the Beaver Meadow Falls Trail. About 1.5 miles in, Ranger Giglinto made contact with the hikers, who were still mobile. Once located, Ranger Giglinto wrapped the injured hiker's knee for added support, escorted the pair back out to the lake road, and gave them a courtesy ride back to their vehicle. The hikers advised they would seek further medical treatment on their own.

Town of Webb
Herkimer County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 2 at 5:22 p.m., Herkimer County 911 contacted DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a woman hiking near Woodhull Mountain requesting assistance. The woman called 911 earlier advising that she had lost the trail but called back later stating she had found it again. The 34-year-old hiker from Oswego reported feeling dizzy and nauseous. Forest Rangers Dylan McCartney and Greg Hoag responded to assist and located the hiker at 6:17 p.m., just past Remsen Falls. Because the hiker was struggling to walk, Rangers drove her out to a nearby administration road and turned her over to Old Forge EMS for further medical attention.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 3 at 12:13 p.m., Forest Ranger Lt. Chris Kostoss notified DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch that a woman on the summit of Saddleback Mountain had suffered an unstable knee injury and was requesting assistance. Lieutenant Kostoss determined the best course of action was to insert a Ranger at the summit to assess the extent of the injury. Forest Rangers Kevin Burns and Benjamin Baldwin responded to the New York State Police Aviation Hangar in Lake Clear to prepare for a possible hoist mission. A helicopter lowered Ranger Burns to the 18-year-old hiker from Scott Plains, New Jersey, and he determined the hiker could bear weight on her leg. Ranger Burns advised they would slowly hike down to the Johns Brook Outpost and meet up with Forest Rangers Scott vanLaer and Scott Sabo to transport the hiker out of the woods. At 5:54 p.m., the hiker and Rangers were back to the trailhead, and she declined additional medical attention.

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 3 at 8:45 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiking group reporting that they took a wrong turn coming off Mount Colden in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. Coordinates placed them on the trail to Lake Arnold rather than Marcy Dam. Assistant Forest Ranger Ethan Engel and the Marcy Dam caretaker responded to assist, locating the lost hikers from New York City not far from their last known point. At 11:05 p.m., the group arrived back at Marcy Dam as Forest Ranger Peter Evans started in to escort the hikers out of the woods since they did not have any flashlights with them. At 12:32 a.m. on July 4, the hikers and Forest Ranger Evans were back to the trailhead.

Town of Hunter/ Kaaterskill Wild Forest
Greene County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 4 at 3 p.m., Forest Ranger John Gullen and Assistant Forest Ranger Jonathan Lasselle came across a 22-year-old man from Brooklyn who became ill not far from the middle pool of Kaaterskill Falls. The man was unable to keep any fluids down and had a fever. Rangers helped the man walk out of the woods to a waiting ambulance at the Laurel House parking lot, where he was transported to a local hospital for medical treatment.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 5 at 8:02 a.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call requesting assistance with an ill hiker between Basin and Saddleback Mountains. The hikers had set out on a multi-day trip on July 2, which included summitting Lower Wolfjaw and camping at Wolfjaw lean-to, Mount Marcy/camping at Panther Gorge, and Haystack and Basin, camping on the col between Basin and Saddleback. The 21-year-old hiker from Porter Corners experienced severe abdominal cramping and signs of dehydration. His hiking partner tried to rehydrate him, but they ran out of water. Dispatch established contact with the hikers and Forest Ranger Scott vanLaer, who was assigned to the Johns Brook interior outpost, responded to assist. Ranger vanLaer had to summit Saddleback via the Orebed Brook trail to reach the hikers. The hiker was given fluids and the group started out on foot to Johns Brook Valley. At 5:27 p.m., Forest Rangers Megan LaPierre and Robbi Mecus transported the hikers via ATV from Johns Brook back to their vehicle. The hikers were issued tickets for camping over 4,000 feet in elevation, having a campfire in Panther Gorge, and not carrying a bear canister.

Hudson River
Indian Lake
Hamilton County

On Sunday, July 5, two Forest Rangers from Region 5 Zone D, Hamilton County, conducted outreach and education for New York State-licensed rafting guides on the Indian/Hudson River. On this day, 182 customers hired licensed guides to raft them down the Indian and Hudson River Gorge. Rangers inspected 40 licensed guides, educating and assisting them with any violations observed.

Forest Rangers giving instructions to people in the woods
Forest Rangers assist and educate licensed guides

Whiteface Mountain
Reconnaissance Training:

On Monday, July 6, Forest Rangers provided support to New York Army National Guard (NYARNG) aviation officers out of the Albany Division to conduct a high and low reconnaissance of Whiteface Mountain. The recon was conducted to identify future landing zones at the base of the mountain and to identify locations of rocky outcroppings where the NYARNG would be able to conduct Pinnacle training landings. A Pinnacle landing is when the Blackhawk touches down with only one or two wheels touching the ground while the Blackhawk gets loaded or unloaded. The NYARNG and the Forest Rangers met with the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) on the ground for the low reconnaissance of Whiteface Mountain. A Blackhawk UH-60 was used to conduct this mission with NYARNG member Matt Quackenbush piloting the Blackhawk, NYARNG Lt. Colonel Kevin Ferreira co-piloting, NYARNG Sgt. Joe Roth serving as flight mechanic, and Forest Ranger Lt. Dave Pachan the crew chief.

Forest Rangers stand with other emergency response staff in front of a helicopter at the base of a mountain
Forest Rangers join NYARNG and ORDA members
at the base of Whiteface Mountain

Overhead views of mountain range
High and low reconnaissance of Whiteface Mountain

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 and emergency response vehicles in the parking lot of a COVID-19 testing site.
Forest Rangers set up outside 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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