Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

For Release: Tuesday, July 11, 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."

Town of Conquest
Wayne County
Dog Found:
On June 2, while on patrol on Howland Island at Montezuma Wildlife Management Area, Ranger Chappell discovered a dog swimming in one of the ponds. Ranger Chappell secured the dog and contacted Finger Lakes SPCA of Central New York. While the SPCA took in the dog, Lieutenant Wickens posted a photo of the canine on social media. The Cayuga and Wayne County communities quickly shared the post and by that evening, the owner came forward. The owner had been frantically searching for the dog all day after the dog broke her leash. Rangers believe the dog swam the canal to make it to the island.

Ranger with grey and white dog
Ranger Chappell finds dog

City of Rochester
Monroe County
Public Outreach:
On June 5, Forest Ranger Lieutenant Wickens and Ranger Raffaldi joined Smokey Bear at Rochester Academy Charter School to discuss fire safety. The Rangers talked about the importance of not playing with matches and contacting an adult in the event of an accidental fire.

Forest Rangers, Smokey Bear, and school staff take a group photo outside of the school
Assistant Principal Belfield, Ranger Raffaldi, Smokey Bear, and Lieutenant Wickens

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 4 at 2:35 p.m., the Johns Brook Lodge caretaker contacted Ray Brook dispatch about a sick hiker on Yard Mountain. As Forest Rangers responded, the caretaker reached the hiker and reported the subject was experiencing persistent vomiting, weakness, and could not hold down water. Due to the subject's significant heat stroke and location, Rangers requested New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation. Rangers on the ground packaged the subject and at 5:50 p.m., NYSP Pilot Kotronis and Ranger Lewis successfully hoisted the hiker to be flown to the hospital. Rangers on the ground walked the subject's hiking partner nearly two miles back to his vehicle. Resources were clear at 9 p.m. Rangers checked on the subject the following day and he made a complete recovery.

Village of Fort Ann
Washington County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 5 at 4:24 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch requested Forest Ranger assistance with a lost hiker near the summit of Buck Mountain. Ranger Poulton found the 23-year-old from Troy and helped her back to the trailhead. Resources were clear at 7:30 p.m.

City of Albany
Albany County
Prescribed Fire:
On July 6, Forest Rangers Clute, Jackson, and Laymon joined DEC staff, Albany Pine Bush Preserve staff, and members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct a prescribed burn of 16 acres at the Pine Bush. Prescribed fires help prevent the spread of invasive species and reduce the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. More information and video about prescribed fires is available at DEC's Facebook page (leaves DEC website).

Rangers in woods with fire tools, smoke rises in the background
Prescribed burn at Albany Pine Bush

Rangers wearing yellow in a group pic in the woods
DEC Forest Rangers and staff conduct prescribed burn at Albany Pine Bush

Town of Ohio
Herkimer County
Wilderness Search:
On July 6 at 12:55 p.m., Herkimer County requested assistance in the search for a missing hunter. The 73-year-old and his son went into the woods to check on their hunting blind. The two became separated and the father did not come out of the woods. Over the next 24 hours, 13 Forest Rangers, four Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs), including a drone operator, one NYSP Officer and canine, and 14 volunteers joined the search. The Central Adirondack Search and Rescue Team, Boonville Search and Rescue, Poland Volunteer Fire, and Kuyahoora Valley Ambulance assisted in the search efforts. On July 7 at 10:45 a.m., a Ranger found the hunter along the Vly Brook drainage approximately 1.4 miles from his last known location. The subject indicated he lost consciousness at one point and became disoriented. The subject was evaluated by EMS and taken to the hospital by a family member. Resources were clear at 1:19 p.m.

Town of Long Lake
Hamilton County
Boat Incident:
On July 6 at 3:22 p.m., NYSP contacted Ray Brook Dispatch about a child with a significant leg injury after being hit by a boat propeller on Raquette Lake. Forest Rangers Scott and Temple responded and worked with NYSP to interview the subjects involved. The 12-year-old victim from Philadelphia was tubing when he lost his grip and fell into the water. The operator of the boat circled to retrieve the subject, but lost a visual and hit him with the boat. After shifting the boat into neutral, the operator and passengers retrieved the subject and transported him back to the camp dock. Witnesses heard the screams, applied a tourniquet, and transported the subject to the town dock where they were met by Raquette Lake Fire and Ambulance Service. Herkimer County Life Flight flew the patient to the hospital. Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigator (BECI) Panipinto responded to the hospital to take statements from the victim and his mother. NYSP is handling the investigation.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 8 at 1 p.m., Forest Ranger Lewis responded to a report of a hiker with a lower leg injury on Cascade Mountain. Due to the hiker's location and the nature of the injury, Rangers requested assistance from NYSP Aviation. NYSP Pilots Kneer and Oropallo flew in with hoist operator Ranger O'Connor. Ranger Praczkajlo hiked in to the subject, confirmed the unstable ankle injury, and prepared the 38-year-old for a hoist rescue. At 3:30 p.m., NYSP pilots Kneer and Oropallo and Ranger O'Connor successfully hoisted the subject and flew her to the hospital.

Town of Shandaken
Ulster County
Law Enforcement:
On July 8 at 1:30 p.m., the Catskill 3500 Club notified Forest Ranger Martin about a group of hikers carrying two Adirondack chairs toward the summit of Slide Mountain. The hikers from New Jersey indicated they intended to leave the chairs at the summit for public use. Slide Mountain is located in the Slide Mountain Wilderness and is the highest Catskill peak with an elevation of 4,120 feet. At 3 p.m., Ranger Martin met the group at the trailhead and explained it is illegal to leave the chairs at the summit. The group refused to retrieve the chairs, so Ranger Martin issued a ticket for abandoning property in a wilderness area and the Ranger and Summit Steward Moran retrieved the chairs.

hikers going up a trail with Adirondack chairs on their backs
Hikers ticketed on Slide Mountain

Town of Pinckney
Lewis County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 8 at 1:45 p.m., eight Forest Rangers responded to Inman Gulf on Tug Hill State Forest for a report of a hiker who fell into the gorge. At 3:20 p.m., Rangers set up a rope system to retrieve the 20-year-old from Fort Drum. With assistance from Lewis County Search and Rescue, Adams Center Fire, Rodman Fire, and Lewis County Sheriff's Office, the subject was successfully raised to the top of the gorge where he was checked out by EMS. Resources were clear by 4:30 p.m.

Town of Newcomb
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 8 at 2:50 p.m., Forest Ranger Sabo received a call from Newcomb Volunteer Fire requesting assistance with a bicycle crash victim near Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest. Ranger Sabo opened the gate and escorted medics to the scene. The 71-year-old from Penfield was biking with his wife and a friend when he lost control of his bike. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and multiple lacerations and bruises. The patient was wearing a helmet, which likely prevented a more severe head injury. Ranger Sabo helped treat the injuries and Newcomb Volunteer Fire Chief Bush drove the patient to the trailhead. Newcomb EMS then transported the patient to the hospital. Resources were clear at 3:50 p.m.

Town of Hunter
Greene County
Law Enforcement:
On July 8 at 4:15 p.m., North South Lake Campground staff requested Forest Ranger assistance after a complaint about a small bear eating food from a cooler. Ranger Gullen hazed the bear, forcing it back into the woods. Ranger Gullen wrote tickets to the occupants for leaving food and trash out and having an unattended fire. At 8:10 p.m., there was another call for a bear sighting. Ranger Gullen responded, but the bear was no longer present. For information on how to camp, hike, and fish safely in bear country, go to DEC's website.

Town of Indian Lake
Hamilton County
Water Recovery:
On July 9 at 12 p.m., four Forest Rangers responded to Cedar River Flow for a report of a possible drowning. At 12:28 p.m., Ranger Scott located the body of a 78-year-old from Indian Lake. The subject was turned over to the Hamilton County Coroner. Rangers recovered the subject's canoe. Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigator (BECI) Panipinto is leading the investigation.

Rangers in raft pull small red canoe along the water
Rangers recover canoe

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On July 9 at 1:09 p.m., Forest Rangers responded to a call about a 13-year-old camper reported to be in anaphylactic shock on the Four Corners trail in the Eastern High Peaks. Due to the camper's location and nature of his condition, Rangers requested assistance from NYSP Aviation. NYSP Pilots Kneer and Oropallo flew in with hoist operator Ranger Praczkajlo and Rangers Lewis and O'Connor. Ranger O'Connor was lowered down to the patient, who already received an epinephrine injection from camp staff. Ranger O'Connor prepared the camper for a hoist rescue. At 2:50 p.m., pilots and Ranger Praczkajlo successfully hoisted the subject and flew them to the hospital. The camper, who had not previously shown signs of a nut allergy, had a reaction to a granola bar.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Search:
On July 10 at 12:45 a.m., Ray Brook Dispatch requested Forest Ranger assistance with a hiker who lost the trail after hiking Dial and Nippletop. At 2:50 a.m., Ranger Mecus reached the subject on Bear Den Mountain and helped the 59-year-old from Canada to Lake Road. The pair made it to the subject's vehicle by 4:40 a.m. The hiker was unprepared for the hike, did not have a map or compass, was unaware of how long it would take to hike multiple peaks, and did not check the forecast.

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.

  • Contact for this Page
  • Press Office - Jeff Wernick
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-1016
    email us
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions