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For Release: Wednesday, September 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."

Town of Hope
Hamilton County
Wilderness Recovery:
On Aug 19, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office notified Forest Rangers about two deceased subjects in Tenant Creek, Wilcox Lake Wild Forest. Ranger Thompson and Sheriff's Office personnel responded. New York State Police (NYSP) interviewed the reporting party and confirmed the subjects were near the third set of falls. Ranger Thompson, Sheriff Abrams, and Deputy Sheriff Braunius hiked in and confirmed the 24-year-old from Albany and 28-year-old from Scotia were deceased. Rangers Kabrehl and Nally and Sheriff's personnel transported litters and NYSP investigators to the scene via Ranger ATV, Sheriff's UTV, and Wells Fire tracked ATV. The subjects were packaged and transferred to a NYSP helicopter with the assistance of Lyme Timber Company employees. NYSP investigators transferred the subjects to the County Coroner. NYSP are investigating, but indicate the cause of death is accidental drowning.

Town of Indian Lake
Hamilton County
Wilderness Search:
On Aug. 29 at 4 p.m., Forest Rangers were contacted by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office to assist in the search for a missing 77-year-old with dementia. The subject's son-in-law saw his father at 12 p.m. Sheriff's Deputies arrived on scene and searched nearby trails and roads. Five Rangers arrived and conducted searches of the area behind the residence. Ranger Milano coordinated search efforts with Environmental Conservation Police Officer (ECO) Newell and Sheriff's Deputies to canvas local residences and businesses to obtain clues or a direction of travel. After completing several assignments, a command post was established at a local county facility. At 7:40 p.m., Ranger Nally located the subject in good health, walking on a small access road. Ranger Nally returned the subject to his family.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Search:
On Aug. 30 at 11:30 p.m., Forest Ranger Lewis responded to a report of an overdue hiker. The subject's friend said the 33-year-old from Lake Luzerne was a novice hiker and had planned to hike Gothics Mountain as a day hike with a return planned for 4 p.m. At 1:30 a.m., New York State Police found the hiker's vehicle at the Roaring Brook trailhead. The subject signed the Lake Road register indicating he was going to Beaver Meadow Falls, so Ranger Lewis checked that area. At 7:10 a.m., the Johns Brook caretaker located the subject at a cabin on the property and brought him down the Garden Trail where Ranger Lewis escorted him back to his vehicle. Resources were clear at 9:30 a.m. If the subject had been prepared with a headlamp, proper footwear, extra layers of clothing, and navigation equipment, he would have improved his chances of completing the hike without getting lost.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Aug. 31 at 2:50 p.m., Forest Ranger Lewis responded to a report of an injured hiker near the summit of Giant Mountain. Ranger Lewis made phone contact with the subject's husband, who reported wrapping the injured ankle. Despite the pain, the couple decided to continue slowly down the trail. At 5 p.m., Ranger Lewis reached the hikers, re-splinted the ankle, and assisted the pair down the trail. They reached the trailhead at 9:30 p.m. The husband took the 42-year-old from New York City to Adirondack Medical Center.

Hiker with injured ankle sitting on flat rocks on mountain
Giant Mountain rescue

Forest Ranger and hikers making their way back down the trail in the woods
Giant Mountain rescue

Town of Fine
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Aug. 31 at 5:05 p.m., Forest Rangers Baldwin and Benzel responded to the High Falls Loop in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area for a report of a subject with a possible leg fracture. The 66-year-old from New Jersey slipped on wet, rocky terrain and received a deep cut to the shin area. A group camping nearby bandaged the hiker's leg and called for help. Star Lake and Cranberry Lake Fire and Rescue responded and requested a helicopter. Ranger Baldwin assisted with the evacuation. U.S. Army aviation personnel responded from Fort Drum and hoisted the patient for transport to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. Resources were clear at 8:35 p.m.

Town of Hornellsville
Steuben County
Enforcement Action:
On Aug. 31 at 5:19 p.m., Forest Ranger Thaine received a call from Central Dispatch about a possible underage party on Canacadea State Forest. A concerned citizen reported to dispatch after seeing the 'drinking party' advertised on social media. Rangers Krulish and Thaine were working on suppression efforts for a wildfire on Ossian State Forest and responded once these efforts were complete. Rangers encountered several vehicles, confiscated cases of beer from the underaged group, and wrote tickets for underage possession of alcohol on State lands.

Town of Randolph
Cattaraugus County
Wilderness Search:
On Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m., Forest Ranger Sprague received a call regarding a missing 57-year-old last seen on Sept. 1. Family members found the woman's door left open with her phone and personal belongings still in the house. The family guessed she had taken her dog for a walk. Four Rangers, Cattaraugus Sheriff's Deputies, New York State Police, and more than 100 volunteers from local fire departments and the search federation assisted with the search. At approximately 10:30 a.m. the next day, Deputies located the subject and her dog at a relative's home approximately 10 miles from her residence. The subject appeared in good health but was transported to a local hospital for evaluation.

Town of Hunter
Greene County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Sept. 3 at 4:40 p.m., Greene County 911 contacted Ranger Fox regarding a subject with an unstable lower leg injury on the Mary's Glen trail. Rangers Fox and Skudlarek responded, along with Hunter Ambulance, Greene County Paramedics, and North/South Lake Campground staff. Rescue crews found the 32-year-old from Washington, D.C., splinted her injured ankle, provided crutches, and helped carry the subject to a waiting ambulance. The subject was transported by Hunter Ambulance to Kingston Hospital. Resources were clear at 6:30 p.m.

Town of Hunter
Greene County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Sept. 4 at 11 a.m., Greene County 911 contacted Ranger Fox regarding a report of an individual who fell from the top of Kaaterskill Falls. Rangers Fox, Seeley, and Skudlarek responded, along with Assistant Forest Ranger (AFR) Gumbs. AFR Gumbs located the 22-year-old from New Jersey with an unstable right ankle injury. The subject was at the top of Kaaterskill Falls in the creek, approximately 12 feet from the edge. After moving the subject to a safer spot, Rangers, Hunter Police, and Hunter Ambulance personnel administered first aid and carried him to the trail. Centerville/Cedar Grove Fire transported the subject to the ambulance with their UTV. The subject was then transported to Kingston Hospital via ambulance. Resources were clear at 2 p.m.

Town of Persia
Cattaraugus County
Enforcement Action/ Wilderness Search:
On Sept. 5 at 8 p.m., Forest Ranger Sprague observed a vehicle left in the parking lot of the Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area. Due to the dangerous, steep drop-offs, use of Zoar Valley is only permitted sunrise to sunset. The vehicle was registered to an 85-year-old from Florida. After an initial search of the area, Ranger Sprague became concerned the subject could be lost or in need of assistance. Rangers Krulish and Sprague continued to investigate and found that the man's 56-year-old son from New York City was in possession of the vehicle and intended to camp in Zoar Valley. With the rain and flash flood warning, Rangers began hiking down to locate the subject. At approximately 12:30 a.m., Rangers located the subject in a tent, camping 20 feet off the edge of the creek at the bottom of the gorge. Rangers hiked the subject back to his vehicle and issued a ticket for illegal use of the property after sunset.

Flashlight shining on yellow tent in the dark and flowing water near it
Illegal camping at Zoar Valley

Towns of Mamakating, Wawarsing, and Millerton
Dutchess, Sullivan, and Ulster Counties
Wildland Fires:
Forest Rangers worked on suppression efforts at five different fires estimated at 221 acres. The largest fire was the Napanoch Point fire in Ulster County, which was started by a lightning strike and burned 142 acres of land. Forest Rangers led the incident response in cooperation with the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, New York State Police, Ulster County, and other State and local partners. Eight days after the fire started, the teams of firefighters had the fire under control (leaves DEC website). Dry weather throughout the summer increases the risk of fires. More information about how to reduce the risk of wildfires can be found at DEC's website.

Rangers wearing yellow jackets making their way up a trail to fight wildfire
Napanoch Point fire

Rangers pointing at topograpic map of forest area where wildfire is
Ranger Praczkajlo at Napanoch Point fire

Ranger having discussion with other emergency personnel in grassy parking lot
Ranger Jackson at Napanoch Point fire

helicopter carrying large water bucket and dropping the water on wildfire
Bucket drop at Napanoch Point fire

edge of trail blazes with orange flames in the woods
Napanoch Point fire

Rangers wearing yellow jackets make their way up a rocky trail to the wildfire
Napanoch Point fire

Rangers and emergency personnel group photo
Hand crew with DEC, State Parks, National Park Service, and Quebec firefighters

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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