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For Release: Wednesday, June 2, 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."

Hamlet of High Falls
Ulster County
Swiftwater Rescue Training:
On May 24, Region 3 Forest Rangers participated in swiftwater rescue training on the Rondout Creek at High Falls. Rangers learned about self-rescue swimming, wading with belay assist, go-rescue, and throw bag techniques.

Forest Rangers huddled together in river for training exercise
Forest Rangers take part in swiftwater rescue training In Rondout Creek

Forest Rangers in river practicing rescue techniques
Forest Rangers during swiftwater rescue training in Rondout Creek

City of Oswego/Oswego River
Oswego County
Swiftwater Rescue Training:
On May 24, Forest Rangers from Regions 6 and 7 participated in a multi-agency training hosted by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services' Office of Fire Prevention and Control as part of the New York State Swiftwater Task Force. This training helps responders gain proficiency and knowledge in the operation of small inflatable boats for use in swiftwater rescues. Attendees operated the boats in daylight and low light, and a final scenario-based exercise was conducted after dark. DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and New York State Police (NYSP) also participated in the training.

Forest Rangers on raft in river near large concrete barrier
Forest Rangers and ECOs take part in swiftwater rescue training in the Oswego River

Town of Colonie
Albany County
Helicopter Training:
From May 25 to May 27, DEC Forest Rangers held a Helicopter Crewmember course in cooperation with staff from the Green Mountain National Forest and NYSP Aviation. Thirteen Forest Rangers completed the virtual classwork and field exercises over three days. The course covers aviation safety, aircraft capabilities and limitations, aviation life support equipment, aviation mishap reporting, pre-flight checklist, briefing/debriefing, aviation transportation of hazardous materials, crash survival, and helicopter operations including practicing helicopter water bucket drops. The objective of this training is to increase the effectiveness and coordination of aviation resources for wildfire suppression between DEC and NYSP Aviation.

Helicopter flying over with water collection bucket hanging below.
Forest Rangers take part in helicopter training in Colonie

Forest Rangesr standing in field next to helicopter
Forest Rangers take part in helicopter training in Colonie

Forest Rangers looking at underside of helicopter
Forest Rangers take part in helicopter training in Colonie

Town of New Russia/Giant Mountain Wilderness Area
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On May 29 at 11 a.m., Essex County 911 advised DEC's Ray Brook dispatch of a 41-year-old hiker from Port Henry with a possible ankle injury on Bald Mountain. Forest Ranger Bode conducted a phone interview and confirmed the injury was non-weight bearing. Eight Forest Rangers were dispatched to the trailhead to prepare for a possible carry-out. Due to the remote location, NYSP Aviation was requested and Ranger Bode was lowered down to the hiker's location. The Ranger assessed the injury and prepared the subject for an aviation extraction. Forest Ranger Praczkaljo then hoisted the hiker from the shore of Lake Mary Louise for transport to a local hospital for additional medical assistance. Ranger Bode walked out with the remaining hiking party, arriving at the trailhead at approximately 5 p.m.

Forest Ranger descending from helicopter to hikers stranded below.
Forest Rangers rescue hiker from Lake Mary Louise

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wildland Rescue:
On May 29 at 2:45 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from the Saranac Lake Fire Department reporting a 28-year-old woman from Saranac Lake with a lower leg injury on the trails near Turtle Pond in the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest. Forest Ranger O'Connor and Lt. Burns assisted the Saranac Lake rescue squad with locating the injured hiker. Rangers assisted medical personnel with splinting the injury and extracting the hiker using the Rangers' wheeled litter system. At 4:40 p.m., the hiker was out of the woods and transported by EMS to a local hospital for additional treatment.

Town of Pamelia
Jefferson County
State Land Protection:
On May 29 at approximately 11:45 p.m., while on patrol to deter large underage drinking parties on State Land, Forest Ranger Thomes overheard radio traffic detailing a large gathering underway at Perch River Wildlife Management Area. Ranger Thomes responded to the area where there was a fire and approximately 150 people with 60 vehicles. Ranger Thomes, ECO Rockefeller, and deputies from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office issued 49 tickets. Multiple parties were tasked with cleaning up the area and the fire was extinguished. All units were cleared of the scene by 4 a.m.

Cars with headlights on lined up on a dirt road in a field
49 tickets issued at Perch River Wildlife Management Area

Town of West Turin
Lewis County
Wildland Search:
On May 30 at approximately 1:51 p.m., Lewis County 911 received a call from a 12-year-old girl from Blossvale who became disoriented while looking for a lost dog. The county contacted Forest Ranger Evans who responded to subject's location using the coordinates provided. At 2:16 p.m., Ranger Evans located the girl and proceeded to escort her out to a nearby railroad bed where they were met by a NYSP Trooper. The girl was turned over to the State Police who drove her back to her grandparents' home and Ranger Evans was then cleared of the scene. Additional assistance was provided by Lewis County Sheriff's Department.

Town of Morehouse
Hamilton County
Wildland Rescue:
On May 30 at 7:46 p.m., Hamilton County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a hiker lost in the woods in the town of Morehouse. The call was dropped during the transfer attempt, but 911 was able to provide coordinates that placed the man in a drainage area in the West Canada Lake Wilderness. Contact was made with the lost hiker and he was advised to stay at his location. Forest Rangers Thompson and Nally responded, locating the 43-year-old man from Camillus just before 10 p.m. Rangers escorted the hiker back to his vehicle and all units were clear of the scene by 11:45 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 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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