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For Release: Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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 2022, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 359 search and rescue missions, extinguished 162 wildfires covering more than 1,300 acres, participated in 53 prescribed fires that served to rejuvenate nearly 900 acres of land, and worked on cases that resulted in hundreds of tickets and arrests.

"With more people visiting State lands and enjoying New York's myriad, world-class outdoor recreational opportunities, DEC's Forest Rangers are on the front lines to help visitors get outside responsibly and get home safely," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Each day, these highly trained first responders are protecting irreplaceable natural resources and utilizing their expert knowledge of wildland fire suppression, wilderness first aid, land navigation, law enforcement, and technical rescue techniques to successfully execute critical missions, for DEC and our countless local, state, and national partners."

Village of Sherburne
Chenango County
Flat Ice Rescue Training:
On Jan. 23, seven Forest Rangers participated in flat ice rescue training in the village of Sherburne. Rangers practiced techniques to self-rescue after falling through the ice and worked on single- and multi-rescuer techniques for ice rescues.

Three Rangers stand at edge of water on ice during training
Flat ice rescue training in Sherburne

Town of Geddes
Onondaga County
New York Sportsman's Expo:
On Jan. 27, Forest Rangers and other DEC staff participated in the three-day New York Sportsman's Expo at the New York State Fairgrounds. The Forest Ranger display featured equipment used for search and rescue missions and tools used for wildfire suppression. Rangers attended the Expo each day to answer questions about land use, discuss wildfire prevention, and to promote Forest Ranger career opportunities.

Two Rangers standing at an informational table during expo
Rangers Petit and Vaile at New York Sportsman's Expo

Town of Wilmington
Essex County
Avalanche Safety Training:
On Jan. 27, Forest Ranger Mecus participated in a three-day avalanche safety course conducted by the National Ski Patrol at Whiteface Ski Center. Ranger Mecus was among 17 students from across the Northeast. The course focused on basic avalanche science, understanding the snowpack and how it relates to avalanche danger, and essential techniques for reaching subjects in the event of an avalanche.

Rangers in red uniforms on snowy mountain during avalanch training
Avalanche safety training

Town of North Collins
Erie County
Flat Ice Rescue Training:
On Jan. 27, Forest Rangers Kennedy and Thaine conducted flat ice rescue training for eight Rangers at Clear Lake Wildlife Management Area. Various techniques were utilized to simulate rescue scenarios, including self-rescue with and without the aid of ice picks, deploying a throw bag, and using a reach pole. Rangers spent several hours practicing and demonstrating rescue skills to better assist subjects who fall through the ice.

Ranger on the edge of ice pull others to safety during training in water
Flat ice rescue training in North Collins

Rangers in red rescue gear pull eachother to safety during ice training
Flat ice rescue training in North Collins

Town of Webb
Herkimer County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Jan. 28 at 4:30 p.m., Forest Ranger Lee overheard radio traffic from Herkimer County 911 reporting a snowmobile accident on Stillwater Reservoir. Herkimer County 911 indicated there were two accidents and both victims were at the Stillwater Restaurant. Ranger Lee arrived at 4:40 p.m., and located the two snowmobilers from Pennsylvania. The 53-year-old suffered a head injury and could not remember the accident nor how he got to the restaurant. The subject also had abdominal pain and a significant hand injury. The 14-year-old subject was having difficulty breathing and suffering from chest pain. Rangers Bills and Stone arrived at 5 p.m. to assist with patient care. At 6 p.m., the 14-year-old was airlifted to the hospital by Mercy Flight and the 53-year-old was taken to the hospital by Old Forge Ambulance. The accidents were caused by a pressure crack that crosses the main portion of the lake where the trail crosses. Pressure cracks form on frozen bodies of water, move without notice, and are difficult to see. Snowmobilers should take caution when riding on frozen lakes. More information about snowmobile safety is available on the New York State Parks website (leaves DEC website).

Hamlet of Lake Clear
Franklin County
Hoist Training:
On Jan. 29, eight Forest Rangers and New York State Police (NYSP) Pilot Kneer participated in hoist training in Lake Clear. Working in conjunction with NYSP, Rangers and pilots train together for potential hoist rescue missions. Training in the snow provides a much different experience than training in the spring and summer months. Rangers serve as hoist operators inside the helicopter while lowering Rangers down to the ground. The relationship between Rangers and pilots is invaluable. Video of the hoist training at Lake Clear is available at DEC's website.

Ranger stands in harness, covered in snow in the woods during hoist training
Ranger Brand at hoist training

Helicopter barely visible through snow during hoist training
Hoist training in Lake Clear

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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