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For Release: Tuesday, June 7, 2022

DEC Forest Rangers - Week in Review

Recent Statewide 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 2021, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 426 search and rescue missions, extinguished wildfires, participated in prescribed fires that served to rejuvenate hundreds of acres of land, and worked on cases that resulted in thousands of tickets or arrests.

"Over the last decade, as well as during the COVID-19 pandemic, DEC saw an increase in people visiting State lands to experience New York's abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "DEC's Forest Rangers continue to be on the front lines to help visitors get outside responsibly and get home safely, as well as to protect our state's irreplaceable natural resources. 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."

Towns of Fine and Newcomb
Essex County
Assistant Forest Ranger Training/Ranger Recruits Swearing-In:
From May 20-24, Assistant Forest Rangers (AFRs) attended training at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) Newcomb campus. They received training in Leave No TraceTM (leaves DEC website) principles, state land use rules and regulations, wildfire suppression, and trail maintenance. They were also certified in Wildland Advanced First Aid. AFRs are assigned to work in the Adirondacks, Catskills, and high use areas in Western New York.

On June 6, Forest Ranger recruits were sworn in at the New York State Ranger School in Wanakena. They will go through six months of training and upon graduation, be assigned to patrol public lands across the state. For pictures, visit DEC's Twitter page (leaves DEC website).

Assistant Rangers and students take group photo at base of fire tower.
AFR class at Goodnow Fire Tower

Assistant Rangers using tools to do trail work in the woods
AFRs perform trail work towards Goodnow Fire Tower

Town of Middlesex
Yates County
Wilderness Rescue:
On May 24 at 5:45 p.m., Forest Ranger Dormer responded to a report of a hiker with a head injury in Clark Gully in the High Tor Wildlife Management Area. Ranger Dormer set up a Unified Command with first responders from Naples Fire and Ambulance, Middlesex Fire, Rushville Fire, Canandaigua ALS, and the Ontario County High Angle Rope Rescue Team. Search and rescue teams found the injured 33-year-old from Bloomfield, helped carry him out, and loaded the hiker onto the UTV for transport to an ambulance. The Ranger assisted the rest of the hiking party to the trailhead. Resources were clear at 6:45 p.m.

Injured hiker being loaded on to small off-road vehicle after rescue
Hiker rescued in Middlesex

injured hiker being carried through the woods on a trail by rescuers
Hiker rescued in Middlesex

City of Albany and Town of Riverhead
Albany and Suffolk Counties
Prescribed Fires:
On May 24, Forest Rangers Jackson and Mitchell assisted personnel from the Albany Pine Bush and DEC's Office of Emergency Management and Division of Fish and Wildlife, as well as other volunteers, with a 37-acre prescribed fire at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. The fire burned an area of mowed brush understory to allow for a seed drill to plant and intermix various warm-season grasses in the brush.

On May 25, Forest Ranger Scott assisted personnel from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Central Pine Barrens Commission, and Brookhaven National Laboratory with a 10-acre prescribed fire at Rocky Point.

And on June 5, Forest Rangers Briggs and Gullen assisted with a 47-acre prescribed fire at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Video of this prescribed fire is available at DEC's website.

fire burning along the ground in the woods during prescribed fire
Prescribed burn in Albany Pine Bush

Group photo of Rangers with smoky scene behind them during prescribed fire
Prescribed burn in Albany Pine Bush

Town of Colton
St. Lawrence County
Water Rescue:
On May 25 at 8:30 p.m., Ray Brook dispatch received a call from St. Lawrence County Dispatch requesting Forest Ranger assistance with an exhausted kayaker on the Raquette River. The 42-year-old kayaker made it to shore, but his coordinates placed him approximately two miles from the road. Rangers and fire department personnel surveyed the scene and planned for a swiftwater rescue. St. Lawrence County EMS called in a helicopter from Fort Drum, and at approximately 12 a.m., the kayaker was airlifted off the riverbank and transported to Samaritan Hospital in Watertown.

Town of Santa Clara
Franklin County
Search and Recovery:
On May 26 at 1:30 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch requested Forest Ranger assistance with the search for a missing 72-year-old from Inlet. Last seen by his wife on May 20, the subject's camp was searched with negative results. Inlet police pinged the missing man's phone to the Santa Clara/Lake Clear area. Rangers Dicintio and Praczkajlo searched the St. Regis Canoe and surrounding areas. Ranger Praczkajlo located the subject's vehicle at Little Green Pond in Lake Clear. Additional Rangers joined the search and located the subject's boat at 3:40 p.m. Five minutes later, they located the subject deceased in the water. The body was turned over to the County Coroner and DEC's Bureau of Environmental Crime Investigations. Resources were clear at 7 p.m.

Town of Liberty
Sullivan County
Honoring Herbert Lepke:
On May 27, Forest Rangers paid their final respects to Herbert Paul Lepke Jr. Lepke served as a Forest Ranger in Sullivan County for 34 years before retiring in 1992. He also served in the U.S. Army and was a volunteer firefighter with the Neversink Fire Department. He is remembered as a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and friend to many. He passed away in a Florida hospital on May 15 at the age of 87.

Rangers in uniform during funeral
Rangers honor Herbert Lepke

Town of Richmond
Ontario County
Public Safety:
On May 28, Forest Rangers Cordell and Dormer were strategically stationed with ATVs, AEDs, and first aid supply during the Frost Town 25K Trail Race. The race includes six miles of trails through Honeoye Inlet Wildlife Management Area. Despite the rain and mud, the race was safe and successful.

Ranger ATV with supplies on it, people with hiking poles running in the background
Rangers help at Frost Town 25K

Town of Warwarsing
Ulster County
Dirt Bike Accident:
On May 29 at 10:35 a.m., Forest Rangers Franceschina Rusher responded to a dirt bike accident on Lundy Road in Warwarsing. A 50-year-old from Kingston had suffered a broken leg. At 11:26 a.m., the subject was assisted onto an Accord Fire Department UTV and then taken by ambulance to the hospital. Ranger Rusher issued five tickets at the scene for unlawful operation of motor vehicles in the Forest Preserve. Resources were clear by 2 p.m.

Town of Denning
Ulster County
Hiker Search:
On May 29 at 6 p.m., Forest Rangers Franceschina, Kreft, Martin, and Rusher began searching for a lost subject off Peekamoose Trail in Sundown Wild Forest. The 26-year-old was separated from his hiking group at approximately 2:30 p.m. At 8:30 p.m., Ranger Martin located the hiker in good health, approximately one mile from the trailhead. Rangers and the missing hiker reached the trailhead and resources were clear at 9:19 p.m.

Town of Hunter
Greene County
Near Drowning:
On May 30 at 10:40 a.m., Forest Rangers Dawson, Fox, and Mitchell responded to a report of a near drowning at Fawn's Leap in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest. The 25-year-old from New Jersey didn't know how to swim and misjudged the depth of the water. He went under and was unresponsive, but friends performed CPR and the man regained consciousness. Greene County paramedics stabilized the patient and Rangers helped package him in a litter to carry the subject up a roadway embankment using a rope belay. The patient was flown to Albany Medical Center.

Town of Newcomb
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On May 30 at approximately 11 p.m., Forest Ranger Sabo was alerted to a hiker experiencing a medical event after an afternoon hike. Rangers Martin and Sabo reached the subject, monitored his condition, and stayed with him overnight. The following morning, the hiker was still in stable condition and Rangers began walking him out with his hiking companions to the Upper Works trailhead. Resources were clear at 8:30 a.m.

Town of Greece
Monroe County
Aerial Wildfire Suppression Training:
On June 1, Forest Rangers Chappell, Cordell, Hettenbaugh, and Roberts participated in helicopter bucket training with the New York State Police Aviation Unit at Braddock Bay. Rangers helped guide the helicopter pilot down to the water to fill up the 240-gallon bucket before determining the proper altitude to dump the water on top of wildfires. During this exercise, the crews hit targets to ensure accuracy.

Helicopter dropping water from a large bucket during training
Bucket training at Braddock Bay

Group photo of State Police and Forest Rangers in front of a helicopter during training
Bucket training at Braddock Bay

Town of Webb
Herkimer County
Wilderness Rescue:
On June 3 at 11:50 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch requested Forest Ranger assistance with the search for a group of separated campers on Stillwater Reservoir. Rangers Benzel and Lee responded. By 2:45 a.m., Rangers located the two canoeists and transported them and their gear to their campsite. Rangers then started a fire to warm up the group. One of the campers decided she wasn't going to stay so the Rangers transported her back to her car. Resources were clear by 5 a.m.

Towns of Jay, Lewis, Elizabethtown, and Wilmington
Essex County
Public Safety:
On June 4, Forest Rangers assisted with the Wilmington/Whiteface 50K and 100K Bike Race. Approximately 500 competitors took part in the qualifying race for the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race. Rangers were there to respond to any potential emergencies along the course.

cyclists pedaling up hill during race, mountains in the background
Rangers assist at Wilmington/Whiteface bike race

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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