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For Release: Tuesday, July 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 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 North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 9 at 9:30 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from the brother of an 18-year-old female hiker from Saranac Lake who was stranded without a headlamp on McKenzie Mountain in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area. Coordinates placed the hiker on an abandoned trail. Forest Ranger Rob Praczkajlo responded and at 12:03 a.m., advised that he was with the hiker. The Ranger provided the hiker with a headlamp and escorted her back to the trailhead. They were met on the trail by Forest Ranger Kevin Burns, who assisted the hiker safely the rest of the way.

Towns of Harrietstown and Keene - High Peaks Wilderness Area
Franklin and Essex Counties
Wilderness Fire Suppression and Rescue:
On July 10 at 9:50 a.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiker reporting a fire on the summit of Mount Emmons in the High Peaks Wilderness Area, town of Harrietstown, Franklin County. Due to the long approach over difficult terrain, New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation assisted by inserting two Forest Rangers via a hoist. Forest Rangers Kevin Burns and Scott van Laer conducted a size-up of the small ground fire, extinguished it, and placed it in patrol status. While preparing for the mission, Dispatch received a call at 10:50 a.m. from ADK's Johns Brook Lodge reporting a hiker suffering from a heat-related illness in the High Peaks Wilderness Area, town of Keene, Essex County. The 27-year-old male hiker from Phelps was dehydrated and unable to adequately rehydrate. Forest Ranger Benjamin Baldwin responded with NYSP Aviation to pick up the hiker at the Johns Brook outpost landing zone and airlift him to a local hospital. At 12:46 p.m., after the hiker was dropped off for additional medical attention, the helicopter and Ranger/Crew Chief returned to the fire on Mount Emmons to assist with suppression efforts.

Town of Collins
Erie County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 11 at 4 p.m., Forest Ranger Wayne Krulish and Assistant Forest Ranger (AFR) Korah Witherell patrolled the Zoar Valley Unique Area ensuring all visitors were accounted for following a heavy rainfall. Two vehicles remained in the Valentine Flats parking area and Ranger Krulish and AFR Witherell hiked in and located the individuals at the north side of the Cattaraugus Creek main branch where the two had been fishing. Heavy thunderstorms caused the creek to rise quickly, preventing the visiting anglers from crossing to return to their vehicles. They were advised to remain in their location until Rangers could assist and help the pair hike out of the gorge. While Rangers were en route, Erie County 911 dispatched a helicopter to pick up the hikers. The helicopter returned the pair to the Valentine Flats parking area at about 7:30 p.m. Ranger Krulish interviewed the two hikers and issued tickets for unlawful use of the area.

Town of Lyonsdale
Lewis County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 11 at 9:45 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Lewis County 911 reporting six lost hikers. The hikers left a nearby camp to walk along the Moose River, became disoriented, and were stranded due to darkness. Forest Ranger Luke Evans responded to assist and followed coordinates that placed the group along the river, not far from a nearby road. At 11:28 p.m., Ranger Evans located the individuals and started walking them out. At 12:06 a.m., the hikers and Ranger Evans were back at the road.

Town of Dresden
Washington County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 12 at 10:34 a.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Essex County 911 reporting an injured hiker with a foot laceration on the summit of Black Mountain. Forest Rangers Callee Baker, Evan Donegan, Joe Hess, and Brandon Poulton responded to assist. Rangers located the 29-year-old injured hiker from Castleton-on-Hudson just below the summit. Prior to the Rangers' arrival, a member of the hiking party with backcountry medical training bandaged the injury. Rangers slowly walked the hiker down the mountain before reaching an ATV staged partway up the trail to transport him out of the woods.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 12 at 10:50 a.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call reporting an injured hiker on Upper Wolfjaw in the Eastern High Peaks. The caller stated he saw a 25-year-old man from Queensbury hiking solo with a knee injury from a fall on wet tree roots. Forest Rangers Kevin Burns, Tom Gliddi, Robbi Mecus, and Scott van Laer and two Assistant Forest Rangers responded. At 3:10 p.m., Ranger Mecus located the injured man just below the summit of Upper Wolfjaw, assessed the injury, and determined a hoist mission was necessary. NYSP Aviation found a break in the cloud cover at 3:50 p.m., and responded to their location for assistance. The hiker was hoisted into the helicopter at 4:10 p.m. by Ranger Burns and transported to a local hospital for further medical treatment.

Forest Ranger and First Responder putting a splint on a hiker's leg on a trail in the woods
Assistant Forest Ranger, certified Wilderness First Responder,
and Emergency Medical Technician Christine Raudonis
splinting the hiker's broken leg at the summit of Upper
Wolfjaw in preparation for a hoist mission.

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.

Two Forest Rangers help moving cars through a COVID testing site tent
Forest Rangers assist at the COVID-19 testing facility at SUNY Albany

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