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For Release: Tuesday, May 11, 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 Georgetown
Madison County
Trash and Bonfires:
On April 28, Forest Ranger Burkholder investigated a complaint of a gathering at Muller Hill State Forest. Ranger Burkholder arrived to find a smoldering bonfire, as well as some trash and pallets that were left behind. Unable to locate the responsible party, the Ranger proceeded to put out the fire while DEC Operations staff removed the trash and pallets from the site. On May 4, Forest Ranger Virkler received a tip that another gathering occurred at the same location, with more trash and pallets left behind. Ranger Virkler located the responsible individuals and educated them on regulations regarding state land use. The Ranger issued tickets for depositing trash on state lands and failure to follow instructions on DEC signage.

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.

Albany International Airport
Albany County
NYARNG Aerial Wildfire Suppression Training:
On May 3, 6, and 7, Forest Rangers in the Division of Forest Protection's Aviation Program conducted a joint aerial wildfire suppression training exercise with aircrews from the New York Army National Guard based at the Army's Albany International Airport flight facility and the Connecticut Army National Guard. During the multi-day training, Rangers presented classroom and field training to the soldiers in New York State Forest Ranger aviation operations, wildfire suppression, and aviation wildfire suppression tactics. Forest Rangers received training in Army Aviation protocols, and UH-60 Black Hawk operations. Rangers and Guard crews worked together on aerial water delivery both from the ground and the air, delivering more than 120 buckets of water in two days of training, with each bucket containing 660 gallons. Forest Rangers and Army National Guard Aviation Units work together to suppress large wildfires in New York. Training together allows them to develop and maintain interagency safety standards and crew cohesion. This leads to a safer, more effective, and efficient partnership to protect lives and property when large wildland fires threaten New York State.

Helicopter flying with a large water bucket hanging from it.
Aerial Wildfire Suppression Training

Helicopter flying over a body of water, dropping the water from the bucket into the lake
Aerial Wildfire Suppression Training

Forest Ranger POV looking down from helicopter picking up water in large bucket from body of water
Aerial Wildfire Suppression Training

Town of North Elba/Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On May 8 at 10:48 a.m., Franklin County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting an injured hiker on the summit of Mt. Marcy. The hiker, a 52-year-old woman from Bailey, CO, had slipped on the ice and suffered a hip injury. Nine Forest Rangers and two volunteers from the Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks (SARNAK) responded to the Adirondak Loj to evacuate the injured hiker. New York State Police Aviation was requested, but unfavorable weather conditions prevented any flights. At 4:39 p.m., Forest Rangers Mecus and LaPierre reached the subject and determined the injury was non-weight bearing. While waiting for additional resources to arrive on scene, Rangers stabilized the injury and constructed a small shelter to prevent further cold exposure. A Lake Placid EMS Paramedic also responded to the summit to provide additional care. The hiker was packaged in a litter at 6:58 p.m., and rescuers began the carry-out. Poor trail conditions (two to three feet of snowpack and ice) led to a slow evacuation for the exhausted rescuers. Additional Forest Rangers responded to relieve the first team of rescuers, and with the assistance of New York State Police, began transporting additional rescue personnel to the Marcy Dam Outpost. During the evacuation, one of the rescuers presented possible cardiac symptoms. The EMS Paramedic on scene evaluated and closely monitored the rescuer while the remaining rescuers continued carrying out the injured hiker. At 3 a.m., the two patients were evacuated and transferred to waiting ambulances for transport to a local hospital for medical treatment.

Hiker in small orange tent on rocky surface of mountain
Hiker being cared for during rescue on Mt. Marcy

Foggy and snowy view of Mt. Marcy
Cold conditions during hiker rescue on Mt. Marcy

Nighttime shot of Forest Rangers carrying hiker down mountain
Hiker carryout on Mt. Marcy

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On May 8 at 6:04 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiker who lost the trail on Pitchoff Mountain in the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area. The 32-year-old hiker from Nutley, NJ, described himself as fatigued, wet, and disoriented and requested Forest Ranger assistance. Forest Ranger Lt. Burns conducted a phone interview with the hiker and determined the subject was not capable of self-rescuing. At 8:21 p.m., Lt. Burns responded to the scene and located the hiker a short distance from the trail. The hiker was treated for cold exposure, provided a head lamp, and escorted out of the woods. The incident concluded at 11:38 p.m.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On May 9 at 6:13 p.m., the Keene Valley Fire Department requested Forest Ranger assistance to locate a 72-year-old man from Keene Valley who was overdue from a hike. Forest Ranger Mecus responded. At 7:29 p.m., searchers located the missing man, who suffered minor injuries from falling off a ledge. Using a technical rope belay system, Ranger Mecus extracted the man from the ledge. At 9:02 p.m., the subject was transferred to Keene Valley Recue for transport to a local hospital.

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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