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."
City of Rochester
Aerial Wildfire Suppression Training: On April 20 and 21, Forest Rangers in the Division of Forest Protection's Aviation Program conducted a joint aerial wildfire suppression training exercise with air crews from the New York Army National Guard at the Army's Rochester International Airport flight facility. During the multi-day training, Rangers provided soldiers with classroom and field training on New York State Forest Ranger aviation operations, wildfire suppression, and aviation wildfire suppression tactics. Forest Rangers received training in Army aviation protocols and CH-47 Chinook operations. Rangers and Guard crews worked together on aerial water delivery from the ground and the air, delivering more than 50 buckets, each containing up to 2,000 gallons of water. Forest Rangers and Army National Guard Aviation Units work together to suppress large wildfires in New York. Training together helps to develop and maintain interagency safety standards and crew cohesion, advancing a safer, more effective, and efficient partnership to protect lives and property when large wildland fires threaten New York State.
Town of Hartwick
Burn Ban Enforcement: On April 24, Forest Ranger Petit received a call from the Otsego County Emergency Management Coordinator reporting an individual burning a large area in his backyard. Upon arrival, Ranger Petit determined the subject was attempting to rid their yard of blackberries. The subject was aware of the burn ban last year but did not realize the ban is in effect every year. The Hartwick Fire Department brought the flames under control and the subject was issued a ticket.
New York's annual statewide brush burning ban is in effect through May 14. Since 2009, DEC has enforced the ban to prevent wildfires and protect communities during heightened conditions for wildfires each spring. Backyard fire pits and campfires less than three feet in height and four feet in length, width, or diameter are allowed. Small cooking fires are allowed, but only charcoal or dry, clean, untreated, or unpainted wood can be burned. People should never leave these or any fires unattended and must extinguish them. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round. For more information about fire safety and prevention, go to DEC's FIREWISE New York website.
Town of Hunter
Technical Rope Rescue Training: On April 25 and 28, Region 4 Forest Rangers and Lieutenants participated in an annual Operation Level technical rope rescue training to keep up-to-date on rope rescue skills. Rangers trained to use component-based, dual capability two-rope systems to perform a vertical litter hoist using a pike and pivot technique to navigate the edge rather than a high directional anchor. The two-day training was held at the Catskill Mountain House site at DEC's North-South Lake Campground.
Town of Perrysburg
Swift water Training: On April 29, approximately 20 Forest Rangers took part in swift water rescue refresher training in the Cattaraugus Creek. Rangers reviewed wading rescues and proper use of throw bags and tethered go-rescue techniques.
Town of Gallatin
Brush Fires: On April 29 at 3 p.m., Forest Rangers Cowart, Gullen, Pries, and Sweeney responded to a brush fire in the town of Gallatin. When the Rangers arrived, they realized there were two separate fires about a mile apart, and split up to tackle both. The larger of the two fires burned nearly 14 acres and was likely started by someone burning cardboard. The smaller of the two fires burned more than two acres. By 7:15 p.m., both fires were under control and declared out the next day.
Town of Guilford
Underage Party: On April 29, shortly before midnight, Forest Ranger Lieutenant Jackson and Rangers Burkholder and Oldroyd were patrolling Chenango County State lands when they encountered a gathering of more than a dozen teenagers in Lyon Brook State Forest. The Rangers interviewed the partygoers, and a 19-year-old from Otego, and an 18-year-old from Guilford were ticketed for underage possession of alcohol on State Forest land. The Rangers spoke to the drivers to make sure these individuals were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and dispersed the group.
Town of Marcellus
Public Outreach: On April 30, Forest Ranger Chappell presented at the Women in Nature Outdoor Skills Workshop at the Otisco Rod and Gun Club. Ranger Chappell spoke about the importance of planning for a wilderness outing and discussed wilderness survival topics such as fire and shelter building. The Women in Nature program is an all-day event sponsored by the Onondaga County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs.
Town of Brookhaven
Training: On April 30, Captain Byrnes and Rangers Gallagher and Hicks participated in a search and rescue/wildfire training exercise with approximately 50 volunteers from the Ridge and Rocky Point Fire Departments on the Rocky Point State Forest. The training involved the use of maps, GPS, and trail markers to locate lost subjects, treating and packaging EMS patients in the backcountry, and safe wildfire response utilizing brush trucks.
Town of Jerusalem
UTV Training: On April 30, Forest Ranger Dormer led UTV training for Branchport Keuka Park first responders. The training in Italy Hill State Forest included evaluating travel routes for accessibility hazards and safe off-road navigation. Ranger Dormer also demonstrated proper patient packaging in case of a rescue and how to operate a UTV with a full water tank during a fire call.
Town of Greene
Brush Fire: On April 30 at 2:22 p.m., Forest Ranger Oldroyd responded to a brush fire in the town of Greene. Six local fire departments helped get the 0.7-acre fire under control. The fire began with a campfire used for cooking. The landowner was issued a ticket for failing to clear flammable debris from a three-foot area around the fire. Resources were clear at 4:50 p.m.
Wilderness Rescue: On April 30 at 10 p.m., Essex County 911 requested Forest Ranger assistance for a hiker suffering from an unstable knee injury on Algonquin Peak. Ranger Evans made contact with the 25-year-old from Vermont and instructed her partner to make a brace so the pair could continue moving downhill. When Rangers Evans and Lewis reached the hiker at 1:30 a.m., they re-splinted the knee and helped the hikers out of the woods. At 6 a.m., the subject went to Glens Falls Hospital for further treatment.
Town of Guilderland
Prescribed Burn: On May 1, Forest Rangers Jackson and Mitchell assisted on a prescribed fire at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. The burn was conducted by Forest Rangers, Albany Pine Bush Staff, DEC staff, and volunteers. Six acres along a powerline corridor were burned to promote warm season grasses and reduce fuel loads under the powerlines in case of a wildfire.
Town of Lake Luzerne
Brush Fire: On May 1 at 5:58 p.m., Ranger Donegan responded to a call for a large brush fire in Lake Luzerne. Two additional Rangers were called in to assist the six fire departments trying to get the fire under control. The majority of the 75-acre fire was on private property and no structures were threatened. Four Rangers returned the next morning and contained what was left of the fire.
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.