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For Release: Tuesday, August 8, 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."

Hamlet of Mahopac
Putnam County
Wilderness Search:
On July 27 at 8 p.m., a woman reported her 67-year-old husband missing from their home in Mahopac. The missing subject went out for a walk at 10 a.m. and did not return. The subject has epilepsy and needs to take medication four times a day. Forest Rangers Cowart, Pries, and Russo joined the search and organized a plan for 45 searchers from local police departments, volunteer fire departments, and other volunteers. Despite search efforts, no clues or evidence were found. On July 31, Lieutenant Bodo informed Ranger Pries of video showing the subject walking into the woods at the end of Pouting Rock Road. Ranger Lieutenant Ashida joined the other Rangers and 15 Officers searching behind the Town of Carmel Department of Transportation yard. On July 31 at 3 p.m., a K9 unit found the subject. Rangers assisted with medical care and carrying the subject out of the woods to an ambulance.

Rangers and emergency response personnel tend to hiker on stretcher
Search in Mahopac Falls

Town of Hope
Hamilton County
Law Enforcement:
On July 29 at 9 p.m., while patrolling Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, Forest Ranger Nally stopped a truck driving illegally on State land. The driver provided his name and date of birth, but due to poor radio and cell service, Ranger Nally couldn't check it until back in communication range. At that time, Ranger Nally learned the license plate didn't match the subject's personal information. Ranger Nally returned the next day to check the license plate again and learned the subject had active felony warrants out of Virginia. Rangers Kerr and Nally arrested the fugitive and turned him over to the Fulton County Sheriff's Office. The subject was also issued tickets for illegal motor vehicle use on State land and depositing rubbish on State land.

Town of Olive
Ulster County
Wilderness Search:
On July 31 at 3:30 p.m., Forest Ranger Horn overheard radio traffic on the Ulster County 911 channel about a lost hiker with early signs of dementia near Bradkin Road in the Slide Mountain Wilderness. The 73-year-old from Climax had last been seen by her husband while hiking an unmarked trail and unmaintained logging road up a drainage. The husband asked his wife to remain in at the trail while he looked for something. He was gone for approximately 30 minutes and when he returned, his wife was missing. Rangers Horn and Rusher conducted a linear search with New York State Police, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and a search team from Shandaken. At 7:45 p.m., Rangers located the subject climbing up a slope. The Rangers provided food and water, helped the hiker back down, and turned her over to EMS for further evaluation. Resources were clear at 9:30 p.m.

Rangers assist hikers through woods
Rangers find hiker in Slide Mountain Wilderness

Town of Keene
Essex County
On July 31, four Forest Rangers participated in climbing training on Chapel Pond Slab. Ranger Mecus served as the lead climber while Rangers practiced climbing the main route on the way up, and the descent route on the way down. Rangers have been called to the area on numerous occasions for rescues.

Rangers climbing steep rockface
Climbing training on Chapel Pond Slab

Rangers getting ropes ready for climbing training
Climbing training on Chapel Pond Slab

Village of Medina
Orleans County
Public Outreach:
On Aug.1, Forest Ranger Lieutenant Wickens and Rangers Cordell and Dormer attended the Orleans County National Night Out event at Clifford Wise Intermediate School. The event brings law enforcement and the local community together for a free night of entertainment, food, beverages, and prizes in an environment free from violence, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Participants included police, fire departments, EMS responders, and civic organizations. Ranger Dormer conducted drone demonstrations while Ranger Cordell and Lieutenant Wickens staffed a Forest Ranger information table.

Rangers at informational table talking with a person
Rangers Cordell and Dormer at National Night Out in Orleans County

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Aug. 1 at 11:59 a.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call reporting a subject who had fallen on Cobble Hill. Forest Ranger O'Connor hiked in from Whitney Mountain Way to reach the 62-year-old from Alabama and splint the hiker's ankle. Ranger Praczkajlo drove in with an ATV and transported the subject to the trail junction while Ranger O'Connor walked out with the rest of the hiking party. Resources were clear by 1 p.m.

Ranger tends to injured hiker's ankle on the hiking trail
Cobble Hill rescue

injured hiker on back of UTV
Cobble Hill rescue

Town of Thompson
Sullivan County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Aug. 2 at 7:40 p.m., Forest Rangers O'Connell and Schweider responded to a call for an injured hiker at Mullet Falls in the Neversink River Unique Area. Rangers reached the patient by 9 p.m. Rock Hill EMS splinted the hiker's ankle and Rangers assembled a wheeled litter to carry the 32-year-old from Spring Valley. Rangers and members of Rock Hill EMS and Rock Hill Fire Department helped bring the patient to a waiting UTV, which took him approximately 1.3 miles to a Hatzalah EMS ambulance. The patient was part of a group of approximately 80 visitors. Rangers issued a ticket to the group leader for having a group of more than 20 people on State land without a permit.

Rangers and EMS tend to injured hiker on a trail at night
Mullet Falls rescue

City of Ithaca
Tompkins County
Wilderness Search:
On Aug. 3 at 7:40 a.m., the Tompkins County Sheriff's Office requested Forest Ranger assistance with the search for a missing person thought to be lost in Thayer Preserve Lick Brook. Rangers organized a search of the preserve and at 8:40 a.m., Rangers and other searchers located the 46-year-old. Rangers carried the subject to the ambulance, which transported her to the hospital.

Rangers carrying an injured hiker through the woods
Subject found in Thayer Preserve Lick Brook

Town of Morris
Otsego County
Public Outreach:
On Aug. 3, Forest Ranger Lieutenant Breigle and Rangers Cooley and Laymon joined Smokey Bear at the Otsego County Fair. Rangers educated fair visitors on the work of a Forest Ranger and explained natural resource protection and wildfire prevention. Rangers handed out Smokey wrist bands and frisbees to children at the fair.

Two Rangers and Smokey Bear stand in front of an informational table at a county fair
Rangers Laymon and Cooley, and Smokey Bear at Otsego County Fair

Town of Orange
Steuben County
Law Enforcement:
On Aug. 3 at 5:31 p.m., Forest Ranger Roberts happened upon an individual with a dirt bike who had a flat tire at the intersection of Chambers Road and County Route 16. When Ranger Roberts stopped, the individual began pushing the dirt bike down the road. The dirt bike was unregistered and the subject admitted to operating on a public highway. While issuing two tickets, Ranger Roberts discovered the subject had a warrant out of Steuben County for a probation violation. A nearby New York State Police unit responded and transported the suspect to a Steuben County Sheriff's Deputy.

Hamlet of Rock Hill
Sullivan County
Wilderness Search:
On Aug. 3 at 7:55 p.m., Forest Rangers Quinones and Schweider responded to a call for a despondent subject in the Neversink River Unique Area. At 9:45 p.m., Rangers and Sullivan County Sheriff's Deputies made contact with the 46-year-old from Wurstboro. The subject was approximately 20 feet up a tree and did not answer when search crews called out to them. The subject then climbed an additional 40 to 50 feet up the tree. The Sullivan County Crisis Negotiation Team and a friend of the subject joined responders at the scene at 11 p.m. The subject climbed down from the tree at 12:15 a.m. Rock Hill Fire Department, Rangers, and Sullivan County Sheriff's Deputies walked the subject to the trailhead where he was taken by Rock Hill EMS to the hospital. Resources were clear at 1:30 a.m.

Resources are available for those experiencing a mental health crisis or emotional distress - 988 is a free 24-hour hotline to call or text anywhere in New York.

Village of Oriskany
Oneida County
From Aug. 3 to 6, Forest Rangers Hoag, McCartney, Murphy, Piersma, and Pelrah assisted with the 2023 Search and Rescue Hope exercise. Sponsored by the Consortium for Humanitarian Service and Education, SUNY University at Albany College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, and Elmira College, this civilian-designed and led exercise recreates the challenges and conditions faced by humanitarian organizations when responding to disasters. Forest Rangers instructed and held field exercises about basic wildland search skills with four teams of approximately 40 total students.

Rangers and civilians participate in disaster response training in the woods
Disaster response training

Village of Saranac Lake
Franklin County
Lightning Strike:
On Aug. 4 at 1 p.m., while patrolling the Follensby Clear Pond boat launch, Forest Ranger Adams heard sirens approaching and saw a Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department Truck pull into the boat launch. A 34-year-old from Pennsylvania and a 44-year-old from Syracuse were camping in a tent at the base of a tree struck by lightning; the lightning hit the pair, as well. Ranger Adams rode with Tupper Lake EMS to the island. Ranger Praczkajlo and Saranac Rescue also responded. Both subjects were able to stand and get onto the boat. The visitors were taken back to the boat launch before being transported to the hospital. One subject is on crutches with swelling to his ankle. The other is experiencing hearing issues.

Rangers, firefighters, and other personnel responding to campground
Rangers respond to lightning strike

Rangers gather around person explaining what happened with a lightning strike at campground
Rangers respond to lightning strike

large tree with damage from lightning strike
Tree hit by lightning

Village of Catskill
Greene County
Bear Encounter:
On Aug.4 at 5:10 p.m., Greene County Dispatch called Forest Ranger Clute about a backpacker being followed by a bear near North Point in the Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness. Ranger Clute made contact with the 23-year-old from Canada to confirm her location. The backpacker indicated she tried to frighten the bear, but the bear kept following. The subject dropped her bag and continued up the trail to call for help. Ranger Clute reached the subject at 5:40 p.m. Less than an hour later, Ranger Clute located the bear and scared it away from the subject's backpack. The backpacker then hiked back down the trail and secured a campsite for the night. Ranger Clute maintained a visual on the bear to ensure the animal didn't start following the hiker once more. Resources were clear at 9:45 p.m.

Town of Sodus
Wayne County
Public Outreach:
On Aug. 5, Forest Ranger Raffaldi participated in the Sodus Center Volunteer Fire Department's 100th Anniversary Celebration. The event included appearances from Smokey Bear and Sparky the Fire Dog, as well as bounce houses, fire prevention games, face painting, and balloon characters. Ranger Raffaldi met with attendees and shared information about State land rules and regulations, taught children about campfire safety, and marched with Smokey Bear in the parade.

Rangers, EMS, and Smokey Bear in front of ambulance
Ranger Raffaldi with Wayne County Emergency Medical Services and Smokey Bear

Smokey Bear in the back of a Forest Ranger truck during parade
Smokey Bear in parade

Town of Fine
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Search:
On Aug. 5 at 9:47 a.m., Forest Ranger Emerson was notified of a missing 76-year-old from Troy who had left the High Falls lean-to at approximately midnight and failed to return. The subject's daughter left the campsite and hiked to Wanakena to get help. Rangers took a boat to begin searching the lean-to area while the Cranberry Lake Fire Department and Star Lake Fire Department took ATVs/UTVs on the trail in the opposite direction. Members of the Star Lake Fire Department located the subject on the trail in good health. Ranger Shea helped escort the visitor back to Wanakena. Resources were clear at 4 p.m.

Town of Hunter
Greene County
Wilderness Rescue:
On Aug. 6 at 4:14 p.m., Forest Ranger Gullen responded to a report of an injured hiker on the rail trail in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest. The hiker had tripped on a root and suffered scrapes and bruises to her head and shoulder. While Ranger Gullen responded on foot, Assistant Forest Ranger (AFR) Staffa retrieved a UTV. Ranger Gullen reached the 70-year-old from Kingston in less than an hour, splinted both of her wrists, and treated a dislocated finger. AFR Staffa arrived with the UTV and drove the patient to the Laurel House trailhead where she was turned over to Hunter Ambulance for transport to the hospital. Resources were clear at 5:25 p.m.

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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