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For Release: Tuesday, November 15, 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."

Borough of Staten Island
Richmond County
Illegal Tree Cutting:
On Nov. 4 at 2 p.m., Forest Ranger Scott was alerted to a potentially illegal tree cutting at Todt Hill Woodlands. Ranger Scott spoke to the homeowner who explained that an unidentified tree removal company approached him and claimed that if the three trees behind his yard fell, he would be liable for any damage caused. The concerned homeowner agreed to pay the company to remove the trees and after removal, left the trees on the man's property. Ranger Scott informed the man it is illegal to cut down trees on State land. The homeowner was served with a notice of violation and will have to pay to plant new trees to replace the trees removed.

Pile of large trees behind fence
Illegal tree cutting at Todt Hill Woodlands

Area where trees were illegally cut down, leaves and trees all over the ground
Illegal tree cutting at Todt Hill Woodlands

Town of Dickinson
Franklin County
Wilderness Search:
On Nov. 8 at 7:50 p.m., Forest Rangers Booth, Bronson, Praczkajlo, and Russell responded to a report of an overdue hunter in the town of Dickinson. The reporting party found the 79-year-old's vehicle near Mosier Hill, but could not find the subject. Rangers searched the hunter's usual hunting location with negative results. At approximately 1:45 a.m., while conducting linear searches, Ranger Praczkajlo noticed something shiny in the woods. It was the hunter's rifle. Ranger Praczkajlo radioed the other Rangers and they started searching the area. Rangers found the subject approximately 50 yards from the rifle, scratched, bruised, and hypothermic after falling into a swamp. Rangers removed the subject's frozen clothes, put him in a hypo wrap, and started a fire. Rescuers then carried the subject out to an ambulance, which transported him to the hospital. St. Regis Falls Fire, New York State Police, and local camp owners assisted in the search. Resources were clear at 4:30 a.m.

backpack and gun in the woods
Missing hunter's rifle and backpack

City of Albany
Albany County
Prescribed Fire:
On Nov. 9, Forest Rangers, staff from the Albany Pine Bush, and volunteer firefighters conducted a prescribed burn at the Albany Pine Bush. The eight-acre burn will help maintain the naturally fire-dependent ecosystem by reducing invasive species and opening up the area for the growth of warm-season grasses and other native vegetation. Prescribed fires like this one can also help reduce wildfire risk.

Rangers monitoring fire along path in the woods
Prescribed burn at Albany Pine Bush

Rangers extinguish edges of prescribed fire on a path in the woods
Prescribed burn at Albany Pine Bush

Village of Waverly
Tioga County
Wilderness Recovery:
On Nov. 9 at 2:30 p.m., Forest Rangers Petit and Seeley responded to Glenn Park to search for a missing person. The 30-year-old's vehicle was found in the parking lot and had been there for four days. At 4:30 p.m., a drone operated by Bradford County Emergency Services located the subject deceased on village property. Rangers Petit and Seeley assisted with the recovery and helped transport the body to the coroner. Resources were clear at 5:30 p.m.

Town of Jasper
Steuben County
Wildland Fire
: On Nov. 10 at 10:55 a.m., Forest Ranger Captain Rogers, Rangers Cordell and Dormer, and four fire departments responded to a wildland fire in Turkey Ridge State Forest estimated at 10 acres. By 4 p.m., 11 fire departments and approximately 75 personnel were helping with suppression efforts on the fire, which grew to more than 25 acres. Due to fuel conditions, topography, and wind, the fire spread rapidly the rest of the evening and overnight. By the following day, the fire grew to approximately 370 acres. Significant rainfall reduced the danger of the fire growing larger. Rangers Oldroyd and Staples continued putting out hot spots throughout the weekend. The fire will remain in patrol status this week with Rangers checking hot spots and mopping up.

fire burns on the ground in a thick forest
Wildland fire in Turkey Ridge State Forest

Towns of Brasher, Cairo, Denning, East Fishkill, Huron, Port Jervis, and Russia
Dutchess, Greene, Herkimer, Orange, St. Lawrence, Ulster, and Wayne Counties
Wildland Fires:
In addition to the Turkey Ridge State Forest fire, from Nov. 8 to 13, Forest Rangers responded to wildland fires in seven different counties. These fires were caused by a combination of debris burning, smoking, and other issues. All of the fires, which burned approximately 119 acres, are currently out, contained, or in patrol status. Dry weather and windy conditions lead to fires that spread more quickly.

A tree left standing after fire smoulders from the inside
Burning tree at 22-acre wildland fire in Brasher

Remnants of shed at fire in Denning

charred grass and wood after wildland fire
Sixty-five-acre wildland fire in Huron

Town of Fort Ann
Washington County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Nov. 12 at 3:30 p.m., Forest Rangers Donegan and Poulton responded to Buck Mountain for a hiker with a reported broken wrist. The 60-year-old from Alplaus had slipped on rocks on the trail and injured her wrist, but was able to continue walking with assistance from other hikers. Rangers met the hiker on the trail, evaluated the injury, and splinted her wrist. The hiker's husband met her at the trailhead and took her to the hospital.

Ranger attends to injured hiker sitting on back of car
Ranger Donegan splints wrist on Buck Mountain

Town of Gardiner
Ulster County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Nov. 12 at 11:40 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch requested Forest Ranger assistance with the search for two overdue hikers at the Mohonk Preserve. A 47-year-old man and his nine-year-old daughter started hiking at 3 p.m., but were not prepared to hike back in the dark. The pair attempted to bushwhack off trail to get to a road, but were blocked by a rapidly moving creek. The temperature began to drop and it started to rain. The hikers did not have adequate clothing or headlamps and were unfamiliar with the Preserve and its rugged terrain. In addition, the duo did not have cell service to call for help. A family member called 911, but did not know precisely where to direct the responding Rangers. Ranger Rusher, the Ulster County Sheriff's Office and five Mohonk Rangers searched trails and carriage roads until 3:30 a.m. At 4:15 a.m., the subject had enough service and called his wife. Ranger Rusher determined the hikers' general vicinity and talked them through bushwhacking back to the closest trail. At 5:45 a.m., Ranger Rusher found the pair on Old Minnewaska trail. The subjects were shivering and wet. Ranger Rusher provided jackets, hats, headlamps, water, and snacks before walking them out of the woods. Resources were clear at 7:15 a.m. DEC reminds hikers that after turning back the clocks recently, it gets darker earlier. Hikers should always have flashlights or headlamps, even if they do not plan to hike at night. Hikers should also let a family member or friend know where they are hiking and when they plan to return.

Hamlet of Port Ewen
Ulster County
Wilderness Recovery:
On Nov. 13 at 7:30 a.m., Forest Ranger Martin was the incident commander in the search for a missing woman in Port Ewen. Rangers Cowart, Fox, Franceschina, Parlier, and Sweeney responded with other volunteers and the missing subject's family. The search included a mounted horse, drone, and intensive searching through tough vegetation. At 3:45 p.m., the family found the 74-year-old approximately 600 feet from her house. Rangers believe she fell while walking on her property and was unable to make it back to the house.

Rangers and other emergency personnel look at map of area where person could be lost
Search for missing subject in Port Ewen

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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