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For Release: Tuesday, November 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."

Town of Shandaken
Ulster County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Oct. 26 at 4:26 p.m., Central Dispatch received a call regarding a 20-year-old hiker from Pennsylvania who fell on Friday Mountain and suffered a twisted ankle and possible head injury. Forest Rangers Franceschina, Martin, Kreft, and Rusher responded to assist. At 6:38 p.m., Rangers Franceschina and Martin arrived at the hiker's location and made an initial determination that the hiker's ankle was stable and the head injury was mild, and started walking him out of the woods. Rangers Kreft and Rusher, along with volunteers from the Olive Fire Department, met the responding Rangers and the subject with UTVs approximately 1.6 miles into the trail to transport the hiker back to the trailhead. Once at the trailhead at 8:33 p.m., the hiker was evaluated by Olive EMS and all rescuers were clear of the scene.

Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center
Albany County
Smokey Bear Day:
On Oct. 27, Forest Ranger Mitchell, Smokey Bear, Fire Manager Briggs, and Albany Pine Bush staff participated in the Annual Smokey Bear Day at the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center. Due to the pandemic, a drive thru was set up for Smokey Bear to hand out activity kits. The kits include information about Smokey Bear's history and message of fire safety, as well as the necessary role fire plays in the pine barrens of the Albany Pine Bush.

Forest Ranger, Fire Manager, and Smokey Bear pose for a group photo
Ranger Mitchell with Smokey Bear and Fire Manager Briggs

Smokey bear handing a cardboard box to a passenger in a car
Ranger Mitchell and Smokey Bear handing out activity kits

Town of Islip
Suffolk County
School Presentation:
On Oct. 27, Forest Ranger Hicks gave a presentation to Islip Middle School's EXCEL class. The presentation focused on Forest Ranger job duties, specifically their role in search and rescues. The students were able to get hands-on experience using a GPS and compass to navigate school campus, and learned how a litter can be used to carry someone out of the backcountry.

Town of Lewis
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Oct. 27 at 11:15 a.m., Essex County 911 contacted DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a 66-year-old hiker from Elizabethtown had suffered a non-weight bearing knee injury on the Mount Fay summit. Due to the hiker's location, NYSP Aviation was requested and Forest Ranger Lt. Burns and Forest Ranger Praczkajlo were picked up to perform a hoist rescue. At 12:40 p.m., Lt. Burns was inserted to the hiker's location, evaluated his injuries, and packaged the subject for extraction off the summit. The injured hiker was turned over to Lake Placid EMS and transported to a local hospital.

Forest Rangers strapping injured hiker to gurney for transport
Hiker rescued from Mount Fay

hiker being air-lifted out of woods as Forest Ranger guides the line
Hiker rescued from Mount Fay

Town of Guilford
Chenango County
Underage Party:
On Oct. 29, Forest Rangers Burkholder, Oldroyd, and Lt. Jackson responded to underaged subjects holding a party on South Hill State Forest. Rangers encountered several teenagers with a large bonfire and alcoholic beverages. Rangers made the teenagers clean the site by removing two truckloads of waste pallets and some trash. Before the party was dispersed, tickets were issued for violations of underage possession of alcohol, depositing trash on State land, and operating motor vehicles off-road.

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Oct. 30 at 6:17 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a hiker reporting two members of his party overdue from hiking Mount Marcy. The pair was last seen at the summit at approximately 2:30 p.m., with only their cell phones for a light source. Forest Ranger Evans responded to the trailhead to meet with the reporting party. At 7:06 p.m., Ranger Evans located the 24- and 26-year-old hikers from Ithaca, gave them headlamps, and escorted the pair back to the parking area where they were reunited with their hiking group at 7:48 p.m.

Town of Waverly
Franklin County
Joint Enforcement Operation:
On Oct. 30, Forest Rangers Balerno and Praczkajlo, along with Environmental Conservation Police Officer (ECO) Cranker, conducted a joint enforcement operation on the Santa Clara Easement in the town of Waverly. Rangers previously located illegal deer hunting activity, including ground blinds baited with corn, apples, and mineral blocks. To avoid detection, Rangers were dropped off by ECO Cranker at approximately 5 p.m., and proceeded on foot for a mile to the baited stands. After checking the first stand, Ranger Balerno found and detained a subject and his radio, while Ranger Praczkajlo proceeded to check the second stand, which was also occupied. Both subjects were brought out to ECO Cranker who drove in to meet them. Six tickets were issued by ECO Cranker, including hunting deer over bait, establishing a salt lick, and failure to carry a hunting license.

Town of North Hudson
Essex County
Stranded Kayaker:
On Oct. 31, DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a report of a stranded kayak in the north branch of the Boquet River. Forest Ranger Lt. LaPierre, Forest Ranger Evans, and Assistant Forest Ranger Raudonis responded to the location and found the kayak trapped between a rock and a log just upstream from the confluence of the north and south branches of the river. Rangers swept the river shoreline, downstream and upstream, and checked all put-ins and take-outs to find the kayaker. Other whitewater kayakers in the area volunteered to help remove the pinned kayak. The owner of the kayak later contacted Dispatch to report himself as the missing kayaker after he was rescued from the river by a fellow kayaker with a throw bag after not being able to handle the water levels and intensity of the rapids after the rain.

Kayak stuck in the rocks along rushing water
Kayak trapped on the Boquet River

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.

If a person needs a Forest Ranger, whether it's for a search and rescue, to report a wildfire, or to report illegal activity on state lands and easements, they should call 833-NYS-RANGERS. If a person needs urgent assistance, they can call 911. To contact a Forest Ranger for information about a specific location, the DEC website has phone numbers for every Ranger listed by region.

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