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For Release: Tuesday, March 30, 2021

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 2020, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 492 search and rescue missions, extinguished 192 wildfires that burned a total of more than 1,122 acres, participated in eight prescribed fires that served to rejuvenate more than 203 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 3,131 tickets or arrests.

"During New York's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are enjoying the outdoors than ever before and our Forest Rangers are on the front lines to help people get outside responsibly and get home safely," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Rangers' knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and technical rescue techniques are critical to the success of their missions, which for more than a century have taken them from remote wilderness areas with rugged mountain peaks, to white water rivers, and throughout our vast forests statewide."

City of Albany
Albany County
Prescribed Burn:
On Mar. 22 and 23, DEC Forest Rangers, along with staff from the Albany Pine Bush and volunteer firefighters, conducted two prescribed burns at the Albany Pine Bush, encompassing a total of 28 acres. These burns were conducted in high-quality, inland pitch-pine scrub-oak barrens near the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center, an area known as Karner Barrens East. These burns are conducted to maintain this globally rare, fire-dependent ecosystem, improve habitat for a number of rare, threatened, and endangered species such as the Karner Blue Butterfly, and reduce wildfire risk.

Forest Rangers Monitoring the edge of a prescribed burn in the woods
Controlled burn at Albany Pine Bush

Forest Ranger stands at the edge of a prescribed burn in the woods
Forest Ranger Cowart monitors controlled burn at Albany Pine Bush

Multiple Towns Region 7
Onondaga, Broome, and Chenango Counties
On Mar. 22 and 23, Region 7 Forest Rangers responded to multiple wildfires in Onondaga, Broome, and Chenango counties to assist local fire departments with fire suppression and enforcement. In a few cases, the cause of the fire was determined to be someone burning in violation of DEC fire regulations. Fire Rangers issued tickets after the fires were put out. In an effort to reduce the number of spring brush fires, New York State's residential brush burning ban is in effect through May 14. For more information, go to DEC's website.

Forest Ranger monitoring wildfire in the woods
Forest Ranger Lunt works on wildfire in Camillus

Town of Colchester
Delaware County
Wilderness Search/Recovery:
On Mar. 23 at 11:20 a.m., DEC's Central Dispatch received a call from Delaware County 911 requesting Forest Ranger assistance with a search for a missing 67-year-old man from Downsville. Initial reports from 911 stated police agencies, local fire departments, and EMS were on scene and had been searching for the man since 6:30 a.m. Forest Rangers from Region 3 and 4 responded. Shortly after the Rangers' arrival, a drone operator located the missing man in a small tributary in the east branch of the Delaware River. Ground crews confirmed the subject was deceased. Rangers assisted with the recovery efforts and the subject was turned over to the Delaware County Coroner's Office. All resources were clear of the scene at 3:30 p.m.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Mar. 25 at 5:14 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiker reporting he was concerned that his 18-year-old friend was lost after the pair were separated on the trail for Mount Marcy in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. After speaking with the caller, Forest Ranger Praczkajlo advised that he and Forest Ranger O'Connor were responding to assist. Once on scene, Ranger Praczkajlo notified Dispatch that he and Ranger O'Connor made contact with the reporting party at Marcy Dam. Ranger Praczkajlo continued up the trail to locate the lost hiker while Ranger O'Connor began to escort the friend out of the woods. Lt. Burns advised that Ranger Lewis would respond to the Garden parking lot and begin to hike up the Mount Marcy trail from Johns Brook Valley. Ranger Lewis was forced to posthole while walking with snowshoes. At 12:46 a.m., the lost hiker from Southbury, Connecticut, texted Ray Brook Dispatch, advising that he was on the yellow trail that leads to the Adirondack Loj. The subject also provided his coordinates. At 2 a.m., Ranger Lewis located fresh snowshoe tracks leading to the lost hiker. The hiker was suffering from exposure due to the high number of stream crossings. Two additional Rangers also responded but were turned around by high water levels and deteriorating trail conditions while attempting to reach the Johns Brook interior outpost. Ranger Lewis provided the subject with warm clothing, food, and water. Together the Ranger and the subject reached the outpost safely at 6:15 a.m. After resting for a few hours, the Ranger and the subject hiked back to the trailhead and the hiker was released to his parents at 10:45 a.m.

two hikers try to cross a snowy, slushy trail
Rescued hiker walking in unsafe conditions on Mt. Marcy trail

Town of Lysander
Onondaga County
Prescribed Burn:
On Mar. 25, Region 7 Forest Rangers, along with DEC Wildlife staff, Albany Pine Bush staff, and DEC volunteers, conducted a prescribed burn to treat 44 acres of grassland on the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The prescribed burn will improve grassland habitat for multiple bird species and mammals and may also help reduce the tick population in areas frequently used by upland game hunters with dogs.

Forest Rangers and other staff line up for a photo at the edge of the woods before a prescribed burn
Three Rivers WMA prescribed burn

Forest Ranger Oldroyd at Three Rivers WMA prescribed burn

Town of Lexington
Greene County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Mar. 27 at 3 p.m., DEC Dispatch received a report of a hiker needing assistance on the Spruceton Trail at Rusk Mountain Wild Forest in the town of Lexington. A 38-year-old was experiencing vomiting and cramping and was unable to move. The caller reported his friend had trouble the previous evening with the 2.25-mile hike and started vomiting when they reached the John Robb lean-to. The next morning, the subject was still vomiting, and the group decided to return to the parking area. After hiking approximately 1.25 miles, the subject could not continue. His son stayed with him while his friend hiked out to call for help. Ranger Nelson and the Lexington Fire Department responded to the scene. Rescue personnel hiked in one mile on the Spruceton Trail to reach the subject. The responders provided first aid and the subject was secured in a litter and driven out on a 6x6 to the trailhead. At 5 p.m., the man was transferred to the Ashland Ambulance and Greene County Paramedic transported him to Columbia Memorial Hospital.

Town of Newcomb
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Mar. 28 at 3:45 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch was contacted by a 39-year-old hiker from Gansevoort reporting that he was lost and confused on the ridge between Santanoni Peak and Panther Mountain in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. The hiker provided coordinates from his cell phone, plotting him at an approximately 4,300-foot elevation and six miles from the Bradley Pond trailhead. Ray Brook Dispatch provided cell phone coordinates (pings) that allowed Ranger Sabo to track the hiker's movements on a map. Ranger Sabo contacted the lost hiker and made numerous attempts to assist him in using his own map and compass to locate the trail. The hiker was then instructed to stay at that location and shelter from the wind and rain until Rangers arrived. At approximately 5:30 p.m., with poor weather conditions and less than favorable trail conditions, Rangers Dicintio and Quinn departed for the ridge on Sanatoni Peak via the Bradley Pond trail. Ranger Sabo remained in the Newcomb area to coordinate rescue efforts and assist with communications. At 11 p.m., Rangers located the hiker a short distance off the path leading to Santanoni Peak. The hiker utilized a whistle to alert Rangers to his location. After conducting a medical assessment, the group began their descent back to the Bradley Pond trail. All parties were clear of the scene at 2:30 a.m.

Town of Edinburg
Saratoga County
Wilderness Search:
On Mar. 28 at 5:15 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Saratoga County 911 for help locating two lost hikers on a snowmobile trail in Edinburg in Saratoga County. Ranger Baker responded and quickly located the pair in good condition and walked them out of the woods and back to their vehicle. The incident concluded at 7:20 p.m.

New York State DEC staff continue to serve in leadership roles at COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites across the state. For information about efforts to vaccinate New Yorkers and to check eligibility for vaccinations, go to the New York State Department of Health's COVID-19 Vaccine website.

Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC's Hike Smart NY, Adirondack Backcountry Information and Catskill Backcountry Information webpages for more information.

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