DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights
Recent 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 2020, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 492 search and rescue missions, extinguished 192 wildfires that burned a total of more than 1,122 acres, participated in eight prescribed fires that served to rejuvenate more than 203 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 3,131 tickets or arrests.
"During New York's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are enjoying the outdoors than ever before and our Forest Rangers are on the front lines to help people get outside responsibly and get home safely," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "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."
Hamlet of Wanakena
St. Lawrence County
Assistant Forest Ranger Training: From May 16 to 21, DEC Forest Rangers held the annual one-week training for 22 Assistant Forest Rangers (AFRs) at the SUNY ESF Ranger School in Wanakena. The AFRs completed courses in Wilderness Advanced First Aid and Leave No Trace™ principles, and were also instructed on Environmental Conservation Law and the protection of state land. The AFRs participated in eight hours of real-life scenarios involving emergency mitigation, radio communications, public interaction, and interpersonal skills. The AFRs will be assigned to backcountry areas across the state and will assist DEC Forest Rangers with public outreach and education, search and rescue, and forest fire suppression.
Town of Guilderland
Prescribed Fire: On May 17 and 18, Forest Rangers Morehouse, Gullen, and Jackson, along with other DEC divisions, staff from the Albany Pine Bush, The Nature Conservancy, and volunteers, participated in a prescribed burn of two units at the Albany Pine Bush. The Bivy unit was 33 acres in size and the Alleycat unit was 25 acres in size, consisting mostly of grass and shrub. The two units were burned to manage the fire ecosystem by reducing invasive species and creating openings for wild blue lupine and other desirable vegetation. These prescribed burns also reduce fuel loads to prevent future wildfires.
Town of Wilmington
Wilderness Rescue: On May 17 at 2:47 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch was contacted regarding a 21-year-old woman from Buffalo with an ankle injury on Whiteface Mountain. Forest Rangers Praczkajlo and Evans responded to assist. Once on scene, Ranger Praczkajlo hiked in to the injured party and walked her out to the trailhead by 3:37 p.m. The woman declined medical treatment, stating she would seek medical attention on her own.
Town of North Elba
Wilderness Rescue: On May 18 at 8:15 p.m., Forest Ranger Evans responded to coordinates just north of Indian Falls in the Eastern High Peaks for a 20-year-old woman from Troy who temporarily lost consciousness on the trail. The subject had regained consciousness and was being hydrated with assistance from her hiking group. Ranger Evans met the group near Indian Falls at 10:15 p.m. After providing a medical assessment and further hydration, the Ranger walked the hiker to the Adirondak Loj, arriving at 12:48 a.m. The subject declined further medical care.
Sam's Point Preserve
Region 3 Field Exercise:
On May 19, Region 3 Forest Rangers held the field exercise for two courses needed to become certified wildland firefighters. Fifteen students, mostly from New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, completed the course and pack test. This location was chosen in part due to a wildfire five years ago. In April of 2016, a fire burned for about a week and scorched over 2,000 acres along the Verkeerderkill Falls trail.
Town of Harrietstown
Wilderness Rescue: On May 19 at 1:38 p.m., Franklin County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a hiker with an ankle injury near the summit of Ampersand Mountain. Six Forest Rangers responded to assist. At 4:30 p.m., the 30-year-old hiker from Rochester was assisted off the mountain by Rangers using a litter wheel system. Once back at the parking lot, the hiker advised that she would seek further medical assistance on her own. All units were clear of the incident at 4:45 p.m.
Town of Elizabethtown
Wildland Search: On May 20 at 6:32 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Essex County 911 requesting Forest Ranger assistance for a search for a missing 29-year-old man from Port Henry in the Lincoln Pond area. Four Forest Rangers, along with members of the Essex County Sheriff's Office and New York State Police (NYSP), conducted search efforts throughout the night while search plans were made for the following day. Prior to sunset, NYSP Aviation flew over the search area with negative results. On May 21 at 4 a.m., the lost man was located 5.2 miles from his last known location, tired but in good condition. The subject had walked logging roads and ATV trails to the hamlet of Westport, where he was located by NYSP.
Town of Lake George
Rope Rescue Training: On May 20 and 21, Region 5 Forest Rangers participated in their annual rope rescue training at Prospect Mountain. This year's training focused on low and moderate angle rescues utilizing the new litter wheel system. Forest Rangers spent two days refreshing their skills on setting anchors and patient packaging, as well as building, raising, and lowering systems. The litter wheel system has already been utilized on several rescues this month. All Rangers in the state need to maintain at least operations-level standards set by the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA). Forest Rangers have the additional opportunity to advance to the technician level to further their skill set in rope rescue.
Town of Jewett
Wilderness Rescue: On May 21, at 5:45 p.m., Greene County 911 notified DEC's Central Dispatch regarding two lost hikers from Rochester in the Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness, possibly on the Escarpment Trail. Forest Rangers Dawson and Fox responded. At 10:30 p.m., Rangers reached one of the hikers who reported she couldn't continue as she was experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion. She was administered basic first aid until she was able to continue. The hiker reached the trailhead at 11:45 p.m., and was reunited with her companion.
Towns of Orwell, Sherburne, and Sennett
Oswego, Chenango, and Cayuga Counties
Wildland Fires: The recent dry weather brought another round of wildfires caused by debris burning in Region 7. On May 17, Forest Ranger Chappell and Forest Ranger Lt. Jackson assisted with suppression of a wildfire in Oswego County. On May 18, Forest Rangers Burkholder, Oldroyd, and Virkler assisted with a wildfire in Chenango County. On May 22, Forest Ranger Lunt responded to a wildfire in Cayuga County. Rangers assisted local fire departments with suppression and cause determination.
Town of Fort Ann
Wilderness Rescue: On May 22 at 12:30 p.m., Washington County 911 contacted DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch advising of a 28-year-old woman from Rensselaer with a non-weight-bearing ankle injury on the trail for Sleeping Beauty Mountain in the Lake George Wild Forest Area. Forest Ranger Lt. Ganswindt and Forest Rangers St. Claire and Baker responded. Once on scene, the hiker was packaged into a litter by Forest Rangers and members of the West Fort Ann and Bay Ridge fire departments, along with Fort Ann EMS. The hiker was transported utilizing the new litter wheel system to an ATV and driven to the trailhead. The injured hiker was then turned over to EMS for transport to a local hospital for medical treatment.
Town of Newcomb
Wilderness Search: On May 22 at 6:46 p.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a 25-year-old woman from Kinderhook missing from the Upper Works trailhead in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. She was last seen by a passing hiker four hours earlier approximately four miles from the trailhead. Forest Rangers Sabo and Quinn responded, along with two AFRs and the Lake Colden Caretaker. AFR Jackson advised that he located the missing hiker on his assigned trail sweep, and then escorted the subject back to the trailhead where she was reunited with her hiking party.
Town of North Elba
Wilderness Rescue: On May 22 at 8:44 p.m., DEC's Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a group at Indian Falls on the Mount Marcy trail reporting that a member of their party had a weight-bearing upper leg injury. The group expressed concern because they didn't believe their light batteries would last long at the rate they were hiking. Forest Ranger Evans responded along with the Marcy Dam Caretaker. After further interviewing the group, Forest Ranger Evans was informed they had last seen the injured hiker above the Hopkins Junction trail to Marcy. One member hiked back up and located the injured hiker one mile above Indian Falls. The subject reported that he needed water but would slowly continue down the trail. The Marcy Dam Caretaker continued up the trail in their direction with supplies, while Ranger Evans brought the UTV to Marcy Dam where he would hike up behind the group. Once at Marcy Dam, the 22-year-old man from Catskill received a ride out of the woods via UTV and was reunited with the rest of his hiking group. The subject refused further medical assistance.
New York State DEC staff continue to serve in leadership roles at COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites across the state. For information about efforts to vaccinate New Yorkers and to check eligibility for vaccinations, go to NYS Department of Health's COVID-19 Vaccine website.