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For Release: Tuesday, August 4, 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 Potsdam
St. Lawrence County
Wildland Fire:
On July 26 at 3:30 p.m., Region 6 Forest Rangers responded to assist eight fire departments with suppression of a two-acre fire in the town of Potsdam. Firefighters worked to contain the fire and put out hotspots while Rangers mopped up the fire and put out any additional hot spots for four more days. The fire was declared out on July 31.

Town of Malta
Saratoga County
Wildland Helicopter Bucket Training:
On July 27, DEC's Forest Rangers and the Army National Guard Air Assault Battalion out of the Albany Airport conducted specialized wildland firefighting training on Round Lake using two Army UH60-A Blackhawk Helicopters outfitted with 660-gallon Bambi Buckets. Forest Rangers and Army National Guard Crew Chiefs and Pilots simulated aerial firefighting tactics on the lake. Rangers communicated with the pilots from within the helicopter and from the ground, guiding them during a hover of the lake to fill buckets and drop water on a simulated fire line. View the photos on DEC's Flickr album.

Forest Ranger standing on edge of lake while a helicopter dumps water from above
Photo of fire training over Round Lake taken by the New York National Guard

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Search:
On July 28 at 8:20 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call reporting an 11-year-old boy missing from his campsite on South Meadows Road. A man from the neighboring site said the boy's mother went into her tent to change and when she came out, he was gone. She believed he took his flashlight to go exploring. Forest Rangers Praczkajlo and vanLaer responded to the campsite along with New York State Police. Ranger Praczkajlo, who was first on scene, had a State Trooper wait downstream near the bridge on Adirondack Loj Road running a siren while he began searching the area. At 10:29 p.m., Ranger Praczkajlo advised that he was with the missing boy from Hebron after the child went downstream towards the sound of the siren. The two made their way out of the woods to the road and the boy reunited with his mother by 11:20 p.m.

Town of Colton
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Search:
On July 29 at 11:32 a.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from the St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Office requesting Forest Ranger assistance with locating a missing 32-year-old woman from Colton. The woman was last seen on July 28 at 10 p.m. by a friend at her residence. She sent concerning text messages to family members the morning of July 29, prompting the Sheriff's Office to begin investigating. Forest Rangers Shea, Benzel, Lee, Baldwin and Lt. Terry responded to the woman's residence to meet with sheriff deputies and then began a search of the area along with eight deputies, two New York State Troopers and a K9 unit. They also used a drone from St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police to assist in searching certain areas. The search crew found tracks based on tips from the community and a Ranger found the woman a few miles from where she was last seen. Sheriff's deputies interviewed her and an ambulance transported her to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Town of Hammond
St. Lawrence County
Wildland Fire:
On July 29 at 8:40 p.m., St. Lawrence County 911 requested Forest Ranger assistance for a remote wildfire just off Route 12 in the town of Hammond. Three Forest Rangers initially responded and assisted local fire departments with containment of the fire. Rangers worked the fire all night and the next day with two additional Rangers assisting. Due to the dry conditions, the terrain, and remoteness of the 2.8-acre fire, Rangers fought the fire for three additional days. The fire was finally extinguished on August 2.

Town of Corinth
Saratoga County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 31 at 4:23 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance for two 28-year-old male hikers from Rochester who became disoriented while hiking the Western Ridge Trail. They advised they were unsure of their location and out of food and water. Saratoga County 911 provided coordinates placing them on a trail in Moreau Lake State Park. Forest Ranger Donegan responded and at 7:48 p.m. located the hikers and walked them out of the woods.

Town of Wilmington
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On August 1 at 10:48 a.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a 40-year-old woman with an injured ankle on the Flume trail. The caller stated that her friend was climbing a tree when she fell and injured her right ankle, hearing an audible snapping noise. The caller stated that they were approximately a quarter mile up the trail. Forest Rangers Baldwin and LaPierre responded to their location along with members of the Wilmington Fire Department. They proceeded up the trail with an ATV where they found the injured woman and brought her out on an ATV. Once back at the trailhead, the woman was turned over to the Wilmington Ambulance Squad for transportation to a local hospital for further medical treatment.

Town of Niles
Cayuga County
Wilderness Rescue:
On August 1 at 5:50 p.m., Cayuga County 911 contacted Forest Ranger Lunt about a 28-year-old woman who was unable to safely climb out of the gorge at the bottom of Carpenter Falls. At 6:40 p.m., Ranger Lunt arrived on scene and, working with the Cayuga County Rope Rescue Team, raised the uninjured woman 80 feet up a steep incline to safety. The incident concluded at 6:50 p.m.

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On August 1 at 9:43 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from the Adirondak Loj at Hear Lake reporting six men overdue from hiking Mount Marcy. The group had originally started off as 11 hikers who split up at Indian Falls at 5 p.m. Five of the men turned around to head back down at that time while the other six continued towards the summit. The reporting members stated that the six of them only had trail mix, cell phones and what was left of their water for supplies. During the interview process, one of the men made it out of the woods and down to the Loj. He reported that he last saw the other five men at Indian Falls at 8:30 p.m. before leaving them behind to head to the Loj. Forest Ranger Praczkajlo responded to the Adirondak Loj trailhead, hiked into the woods, and found the group using their last cell phone with battery life as a flashlight. The group was escorted back to the trailhead and were out of the woods by 11:18 p.m.

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.

Group photo of Forest Rangers and other staff under a large tent at a COVID-19 testing site
Forest Rangers and other workers at the Niagara COVID-19 testing facility

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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