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For Release: Tuesday, April 13, 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."

Town of Pleasant Valley
Dutchess County
Wilderness Rescue:
On April 5 at 11:30 a.m., DEC's Central Dispatch received a call from Dutchess County 911 about a 64-year-old woman from Pleasant Valley with a lower leg injury near the Mercury Trail at the Taconic Hereford Multiply Use Area. Forest Rangers Sweeney, Rusher, and Cowart responded and helped to package and transport the subject out of the woods to Pleasant Valley EMS. The subject was then taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Town of Groveland
Livingston County
Prescribed Fire:
On April 6, Region 8 Forest Rangers and DEC Wildlife and Forestry staff worked together on a 70-acre prescribed fire of shrubs and grasses to promote the regrowth of native, warm-season grasses. This is the first time DEC initiated a prescribed fire on Sonyea State Forest. The presence of Groveland Correctional Facility to the north and Interstate 390 to the east made smoke management crucial during this burn. Led by Forest Ranger Carpenter, the prescribed burn was successfully implemented.

smoke rising from the prescribed fire at Sonyea State Forest
Prescribed burn at Sonyea State Forest

Caroga Lake Volunteer Fire Department
Fulton County
Wildfire Prevention:
On April 8, Forest Rangers Nally and Thompson, with the assistance of DEC Operations Northville sign shop staff Bailey and Edwards, installed a new Smokey Bear fire danger rating sign at the recently constructed Caroga Lake Volunteer Fire Company firehouse. Forest Rangers work closely with many local fire companies across the state, and while installing the sign were called upon to respond to a small brush fire. The Rangers and the fire company suppressed the fire quickly and returned to the fire house to complete the installation. DEC reminds New Yorkers that the State's residential brush burning ban is in effect through May 14 to reduce the number of spring brush fires. For more information, go to DEC's website.

new sign being installed near a parking lot area
New sign installed at Caroga Lake Volunteer Fire Company

Town of Lysander
Onondaga County
Prescribed Fire:
On April 8, DEC Forest Rangers, Wildlife staff, and volunteers conducted a 24-acre prescribed fire on the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area to improve grassland habitat for bird and mammal species, including Henslow's sparrow. Time lapse video of the fire is available on DEC's Facebook page.

smoke from prescribed fire and a forest ranger walking by
Prescribed burn at Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area

open area with a horizontal line of fire and smoke. Two forest rangers are nearby.
Prescribed burn at Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area

Two forest rangers managing the prescribed fire with tools
Prescribed burn at Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area

Town of Constantia
Oswego County
Wildland Fire:
On April 8 at 2:50 p.m., Forest Rangers Virkler and Shea responded to the town of Constantia to assist local fire departments with a 16.5-acre wildfire. The fire was put into patrol status late in the evening and Ranger Virkler returned to patrol the fire for several days until it was declared out on April 11.

Town of Tioga
Tioga County
Wildland Fire:
On April 8 at 5:45 p.m., Forest Rangers Chappell, Roberts, and Skudalarek responded to a wildfire in Tioga County. The fire was in steep, wooded terrain, and containment could not be established that evening. On April 9, seven Forest Rangers returned to assist local firefighters with suppression and at 5:30 p.m. the fire was put into patrol status. Forest Rangers trained to determine wildfire origin and cause were requested by State Police and State Office of Fire Prevention and Control to provide specialized wildfire investigation assistance to help determine the exact cause. Forest Rangers patrolled the fire again on April 10 and declared the fire out. The final fire size was 77.5 acres.

Town of Indian Lake
Hamilton County
Wilderness Rescue:
On April 9 at 2:30 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from New York State Police B Command advising of a lost hiker in the OK Slip Falls area. The hiker stated she became disoriented while hiking out and was standing near a river. Forest Rangers Scott and Miller responded. Ranger Scott tried to call the woman, but due to limited cell service, texted her with instructions. Not knowing if the subject received the instructions, Rangers Scott and Miller searched the trail and found the 56-year-old woman from North Creek heading back in the correct direction. She had received the text message, but could not send a reply. The Rangers and hiker proceeded back to trailhead.

Town of Fabius
Onondaga County
Wilderness Search:
On April 10 at 6:40 p.m., Forest Ranger Lunt was notified by DEC's Central Dispatch of a lost hiker in the Morgan Hill State Forest. Ranger Lunt advised Dispatch that he was on his way home from patrolling a fire in Tioga County and asked that Dispatch contact Ranger Virkler, as well, as he was likely closer to that location. Both Rangers arrived on scene on opposite sides of the same trail and hiked to cell phone coordinates given by the hiker's mother. The 18-year-old subject from Earlville and her dog were found in good health within 500 feet of the coordinates provided. The subject was walked out to her vehicle and Rangers cleared the scene at 10 p.m.

City of Albany
Albany County
Prescribed Fire:
On April 10, Forest Ranger Jackson assisted Albany Pine Bush staff with teaching the field portion of the S130/190 class that involved a 11.7-acre prescribed fire at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. This class is a requirement for firefighters to participate on prescribe burns held at the preserve.

fire on the ground between trees. Brown smoke is rising.
Prescribed burn at Albany Pine Bush Preserve

A forest ranger monitoring the fire near trees
Prescribed burn at Albany Pine Bush Preserve

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On April 10 at 11:50 a.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch regarding a hiker who had fallen on a trail and sustained an injury while descending Cascade Mountain. Forest Ranger LaPierre responded to assist. The reporting party, an EMT, was escorting the injured party down the trail to meet up with rescuers. Forest Ranger Lapierre reached the 19-year-old woman from Penfield at 1 p.m., and determined her injuries were more serious than first reported. New York State Police Aviation performed a hoist rescue and the subject was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Town of Hunter
Greene County
Wilderness Search:
On April 10 at 3:30 p.m., Greene County 911 contacted Acting Forest Ranger Lt. Dawson about a lost hiker at Kaaterskill Falls. Acting Lt. Dawson reached the subject by phone and found the 55-year-old man from Danbury, Connecticut, at the base of a 25-foot ledge. The Ranger escorted the hiker up a path through the ledge and up the steep slope until they reached the rail trail. The hiker and his dog hiked back along the trail to the subject's vehicle without assistance. The hiker reported that he came out for the day with his dog to take pictures of Kaaterskill and Bastion falls. The subject planned to hike off trail through the woods from the Kaaterskill Rail Trail to Bastion Falls, but did not realize that the terrain would involve ledges scattered along a steep slope. As he hiked down the slope, attempting to avoid a ledge, he became disoriented and concerned because he couldn't find his way back up the slope, so he yelled for help and called 911.

Town of Pomfret
Chautauqua County
Wildland Fire:
On April 10 at 10:30 p.m., Forest Ranger Sprague was contacted by Chautauqua County 911 Dispatch for a wildfire sparked by a barn fire. The fire burned 1.8 acres of land and was quickly extinguished. Ranger Sprague assisted with suppression, mop up, and mapping the fire.

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 NYS 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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