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For Release: Tuesday, October 27, 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."

South Dakota, California, and Colorado
Fighting Wildfires:
On Oct. 16, DEC welcomed back the State's third team of Forest Rangers, staff, and volunteers deployed to help battle and contain wildfires raging in western states. The wildland firefighting crew began their assignment on Sept. 30. The crew includes a DEC Forest Ranger crew boss and nine firefighters from the ranks of Forest Rangers and other DEC programs. The returning New York crew joined federal, state, and local fire agencies battling wildfires in Gibbons, South Dakota, and was tasked with securing control lines. In addition, three DEC Forest Rangers assisted in fighting fires in California and Colorado. One Ranger was assigned to the August Complex fire in California, while another served as Task Force Leader for the Castle fire in California. A third Ranger served as Ordering Manager for the Williams Fork fire in Colorado.

The returning crews of New York Forest Rangers, staff, and volunteers are:

  • Robert Praczkajlo, Forest Ranger, Crew Boss, Essex and Franklin counties
  • Brendan Aschmutat, DEC Division of Fish and Wildlife, Saratoga County
  • Aimee Bills, Forest Ranger, Herkimer and Oneida counties
  • Michael Giocondo, DEC Forester, Lewis County
  • Joseph Hess, Forest Ranger, Saratoga County
  • Captain Jaime Laczko, Forest Ranger, DEC Central Office
  • David Nally, Forest Ranger, Fulton County
  • Hannah O'Connor, Forest Ranger, Warren County
  • Jeremy Oldroyd, Forest Ranger, Broome and Chenango counties
  • Kyle Olson, DEC Division of Fish and Wildlife, Tompkins County
  • John Rusher, Forest Ranger, Ulster County
  • Neilson Snye, DEC Division of Operations, Franklin County
  • Daniel Wehn, DEC Division of Environmental Remediation, Fulton County

A fourth crew left on Oct. 17 for deployment from the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center in Denver.

Forest Rangers and volunteers pose for a group photo with mountain range in the background
DEC Forest Rangers, staff, and volunteers fight western wildfires in South Dakota

Forest Rangers fight wildfire in smoky woods, a car's headlights lighing a path through the smoke
DEC Forest Rangers, staff, and volunteers fight western wildfires

Smoky mountainous scene with a firefighter walking across the landscape
New York State wildland firefighter in South Dakota

Town of Wells
Hamilton County
Wildland Fire:
On Oct. 18, DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch was notified by Hamilton County 911 of a fire on Dunham Mountain in the Silver Lake Wilderness Area. Reports placed the fire on the side of the remote mountain, which has no easy access. The reports also indicated the fire was rapidly spreading and moving vertically from the ground up into the trees. Forest Ranger Lt. Kallen, and Rangers Milano, Kerr, and Thompson responded. Over the course of several days, more than a dozen Rangers, as well as a logistical support long line utility flight courtesy of New York State Police Aviation, worked to suppress and put out the fire. After several days, the fire was placed in patrol status totaling approximately 10 acres burned. Rangers traced the fire's ignition back to an unattended campfire.

Town of Hunter
Greene County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Oct. 21 at 11:20 a.m., Greene County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Central Dispatch reporting a 62-year-old man passed out while hiking to the middle pool area of Kaaterskill Falls. Forest Ranger Gullen responded to assist and made phone contact with the hiker's wife while en route. She indicated her husband had preexisting medical conditions and would need assistance getting out of the woods. Ranger Gullen located the hiker and his wife and provided him with water and food. After a short rest, it was determined the man was well enough to continue the hike out of the woods. At 1:30 p.m., the group reached Ranger Gullen's vehicle and he provided the hiker and his wife a courtesy ride back to their vehicle in the Laurel House parking area. The hiker declined additional medical treatment and Ranger Gullen was cleared from the scene at 2 p.m.

Town of Watson
Lewis County
Wilderness Search:
On Oct. 22 at 7:08 p.m., Lewis County 911 transferred a call reporting a lost hunter to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch. The hunter's friend contacted 911 reporting that his friend was disoriented and could not be reached by radio. Forest Rangers Evans, Thomes, and Lee responded to assist. Ranger Evans was first on scene and went into the woods, along with a Lewis County Deputy Sheriff, and the reporting party. Ranger Evans advised the responders located the lost hunter at 9:11 p.m. The 59-year-old hunter from Queensbury was escorted out of the woods to his vehicle and the Rangers were cleared from the scene.

Town of Tannersville
Greene County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Oct. 22 at 9:20 p.m., Greene County 911 contacted DEC's Central Office Dispatch advising that New York State Police and the Town of Hunter Police Department were requesting Forest Ranger assistance to locate a hiker who screamed for help at the Roaring Kill Trail. Forest Ranger Nelson responded to assist, and at 1 a.m., located the 41-year-old hiker from Plainview. The hiker sustained a twisted left knee, which the Ranger wrapped, so the hiker could walk out of the woods. Ranger Nelson also provided food, Gatorade, and a flashlight. The hiker advised that he lost track of time, and due to darkness, had a difficult time finding his way out of the woods. At 1:15 a.m., the subject was escorted back to his vehicle where he declined further medical attention.

Town of Bolton
Warren County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Oct. 23 at 11:30 a.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance for a 40-year-old woman from Schenectady who became disoriented while hiking Cat Mountain. Coordinates provided by Warren County 911 placed her in the area of Edgecomb Pond. Forest Ranger Lt. Ganswindt responded to assist, arrived on scene at 12 p.m., and headed in on the trail. Using the coordinates provided, Lt. Ganswindt located the hiker at 12:40 p.m., and escorted her back to the trailhead. The incident concluded at 1:10 p.m.

Town of Fulton
Schoharie County
Regional Training:
On Oct. 23, Region 4 Forest Rangers Dawson, Murphy, Ellis, Curcio, Seeley, and Jackson participated in search and rescue training at Vroman's Nose Unique Area. The Rangers practiced patient packaging, hypo-wraps for cold-weather rescues, and using the rescue wheel attached to a litter to aid in carry-outs.

Forest Rangers participating in a training while loading a person onto a stretcher
Rescue Training at Vroman's Nose Unique Area

Town of Johnsburg
Warren County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Oct. 24 at 4:50 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call reporting a hiker who hurt their ankle while hiking on Peaked Mountain in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area. The injured hiker was continuing to walk out, but the caller stated they were having difficulty and needed Forest Ranger assistance. Forest Rangers Kabrehl, Donegan, and Quinn responded to assist. At 6:30 p.m., Ranger Kabrehl located the 38-year-old hiker from Ballston Spa near the lake and advised they would continue walking out. At 7:52 p.m., the group was back at the trailhead and the injured hiker stated they would seek additional medical attention on their own.

Town of Indian Lake
Hamilton County
Wilderness Search:
On Oct. 24 at 5:31 p.m., Hamilton County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a missing 68-year-old hunter from South Glens Falls in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area. Forest Rangers Thompson, Hanno, Gullen, Murphy, Donegan, and Quinn responded to the hunting party's camp to begin search efforts. At 8:30 p.m., Rangers were on scene and broke into groups of two for a Type II search by voice along the route of the hunter's last known location. The hunter responded to a gunshot with one of his own at 1:30 a.m. The hunter was located by Rangers at 1:46 a.m., in good health and had built a fire to stay warm. Rangers walked him back the two miles to the hunting party's rowboat and crossed the lake back to camp. Rangers were brought out by other camp members by UTV and were cleared of the scene at 5:15 a.m.

Town of Caneadea
Allegany County
SAR Training:
On Oct. 24, Region 9 Forest Rangers Thaine and Hettenbaugh conducted Type I and Type II search training at Allen Lake State Forest with members of the Allegany County Search Team. The training included land navigation, GPS, and communications skills.

Forest Rangers in a field near woods for training
SAR Training at Allen Lake State Forest

Town of Hadley
Saratoga County
Wilderness Search:
On Oct. 25 at 12:02 p.m., Saratoga County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a missing 15-year-old boy from Latham on the summit of Hadley Mountain. The boy's mother advised that her son had hiked ahead of her to the summit but was not there when she arrived. Forest Rangers Poulton and Donegan responded to assist. Ranger Poulton was first on scene and proceeded up the trail along with Saratoga County Sheriff's Deputies and New York State Police with negative results. Upon his arrival at the trailhead, Ranger Donegan was advised that the hiker had made it out of the woods and was given a ride back to the trailhead by a passerby who had seen him on the side of the road. The remaining rescuers hiked back to the trailhead with the boy's mother where she was reunited with her son.

Town of Harrietstown
Franklin County
Wilderness Search:
On Oct. 25 at 7:23 p.m., Franklin County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a lost hunter who left Coreys Road in Harrietstown, although 911 coordinates placed the subject near the northern end of Long Lake. Forest Rangers Russell and Temple responded by boat to the hunter's coordinates where they sounded shots to make contact with the hunter without success. At 11:34 p.m., Franklin County 911 received another call from the 32-year-old hunter from Peru, New York, with coordinates still placing him near Long Lake. Using his cell phone, the hunter provided coordinates that placed him closer to Rock Pond off Coreys Road. Forest Ranger DiCintio swept the shore of Rock Pond and interviewed members of the hunting party who advised that their lost party member was supposed to go from Pickerel Pond to Rock Pond. Ranger DiCintio searched the surrounding hills in the area of Rock Pond until he was joined by four additional Forest Rangers at first light. At 7:45 a.m., Forest Ranger LaPierre advised she had located the hunter north of Rock Pond in good condition and they were walking back to the trailhead. All units were cleared of the scene at 9:15 a.m.

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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