DEC Forest Rangers – Week in Review

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.”

Town of Southampton
Suffolk County
Prescribed Burn:
 On May 15, Forest Rangers worked with the Central Pine Barrens Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and Brookhaven National Lab to conduct a prescribed burn at David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens State Forest. The team burned approximately four acres to maintain pitch pine-oak and pitch pine-scrub forests and woodlands while increasing the forest’s resiliency to the southern pine beetle.

Rangers monitoring fire in the woods during prescribed burn
Prescribed burn in Southampton

Town of Fort Ann
Washington County
Wilderness Rescue:
 On May 18 at 12:47 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch requested Forest Ranger assistance after two hikers called for help advising they were dehydrated and lacked energy as they were summitting Buck Mountain. Forest Ranger St. Claire responded and reached the pair, who were in good condition, by 3:17 p.m. Ranger St. Claire walked the hikers down and out of the woods to safety by approximately 5 p.m.

Town of Hunter
Greene County
Wilderness Rescue:
 On May 18 at 9:30 p.m., Greene County requested Forest Ranger assistance with a call for an injured hiker at Kaaterskill Wild Forest. Rangers Allwine and Dawson responded and discovered two hikers from Washington, D.C., were lost approximately one-half mile from Long Path. Rangers hiked in from Steenburgh Road, reached the two hikers, and helped the pair back to the trailhead by 3:30 a.m.

Town of Bolton
Warren County
Wilderness Rescue:
 On May 19 at 2:30 p.m., Forest Rangers Kabrehl and Morehouse responded by boat to a report of an injured hiker on First Peak in the Tongue Mountain Range, not far from Northwest Bay. Rangers reached the hikers by 4:30 p.m., and determined the 55-year-old from Tupper Lake couldn’t put any weight on his knee. Five Rangers helped carry the hiker to the boat. The group reached Green Island by 7:48 p.m., and the hiker sought further medical attention on his own.

Rangers carrying injured hiker through the woods
Hiker rescued in Bolton

Rangers loading injured hiker on to small boat on the water
Hiker rescued in Bolton

Village of Spencerport
Monroe County
Public Outreach:
 On May 19, Forest Rangers Dormer and Roberts attended a career fair at the Western Monroe and Orleans Counties BOCES in Spencerport. Rangers met with several hundred students during the fair and discussed a Ranger’s job and career opportunities.

Rangers stands at informational table during career fair
Ranger Dormer at career fair in Spencerport

Town of Benson
Hamilton County
Illegal Campsite Enforcement:
 On May 19, Forester Desantis and Rangers Nally and Thompson worked to improve camping opportunities at Woods Lake in the Silver Lake Wilderness Area. The group removed undesignated illegal campsites, a large amount of garbage, and abandoned camping equipment. Each year during the camping season, Rangers respond to the area for State Land violation complaints and wildfires caused by illegal camping and irresponsible campfire practices. In response, Forester Desantis is improving the area by closing illegal campsites, adding additional signage, and bringing in work crews to repair designated campsites.

Ranger and Forester carrying bags of trash after cleaning up in the woods
Ranger Nally and Forester Desantis cleaning up Woods Lake

Putnam County
Land Navigation and Skills Training:
 On May 19 and 20, Forest Rangers Cowart, Pries, and Sweeney conducted a Land Navigation and Search Skills Introduction course for 19 members of the Putnam County Emergency Response Team (ERT). The ERT includes members from various police agencies throughout Putnam County. The course focused on various maps and coordinate systems, terrain analysis, pacing, and map and compass navigation. In the field, participants covered more than two miles of terrain utilizing their new skills. Participants were also introduced to basic wildland search skills and learned how land navigation concepts apply in dynamic situations. The two-day training served to increase participants’ capabilities and knowledge and built relationships between the Forest Rangers and Law Enforcement agencies throughout the county.

Rangers pose for group picture with people taking the land navigation course in the woods
Land navigation and skills course in Putnam County

Otsego County
Wildland Search Training:
 On May 20 and 21, Forest Rangers Ellis and Petit conducted a Basic Wildland Search skills course in Otsego County for 18 members of fire departments in Delaware, Otsego, and Schoharie counties. The classroom portion was held at the Otsego County Office of Emergency Management. The field portion was conducted at Hooker Mountain State Forest, where students participated in an area and linear search.

Ranger gives directions to participants during wildland search training
Wildland search training in Otsego County

Hamlet of Jamesville
Onondaga County
Technical Rescue Training:
 On May 20, Forest Rangers in Region 7 completed their annual operations-level technical rope refresher. Training focused on low-edge transition techniques utilizing a dual capability two-tension rope system to lower and raise a rescuer and patient up a vertical cliff.

Rangers testing ropes tied to a tree during training in the woods
Technical rope rescue training in Onondaga County

Town of Essex
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
 On May 21 at 9:37 p.m., Forest Ranger Praczkajlo responded to a report of an overdue hiker who had planned to climb Gothics Mountain. At 11:43 p.m., Ranger Praczkajlo located the subject’s vehicle in the Roaring Brook parking lot. Ranger Praczkajlo was joined by Ranger Mecus, and the two Rangers searched in the Roaring Brook Valley through the night with negative results. Twelve Rangers and volunteers from the Adirondack Climbers’ Coalition joined the search the following morning. At 10:10 a.m., Rangers located the subject approximately two miles from the Roaring Brook trailhead. The 53-year-old from Saratoga Springs had two unstable leg injuries. Twenty-one Rangers from Regions 4, 5, and 6 assisted with the carry out. New York State Police Aviation, with Ranger DiCintio serving as hoist operator, hoisted the injured climber to safety. Due to weather conditions, the helicopter was forced to land in Ray Brook. The hiker was taken by Saranac Rescue to the hospital. Resources were clear at 7:30 p.m.

Rangers discussing rescue strategies in the woods on some rocks during rescue
Hiker rescued in Essex County

injured hiker being lifted out of woods by a helicopter
Hiker rescued in Essex County

Town of Patterson
Putnam County
Wilderness Rescue:
 On May 21 at 8:55 p.m. a hiker called Ranger Pries for help when she could not find her way out of the Michael Ciaiola Conservation Area. The hiker was visiting the 9/11 memorial and became lost looking for the trailhead on Haviland Road. After 10 minutes of attempting to guide her out of the woods by phone, Ranger Pries responded and walked up to the tower and found the 68-year-old from Katonah before helping her back to the trailhead by 10:40 p.m.

Hamlet of Wanakena
St. Lawrence County
Ranger Academy:
 On May 22, 40 new Forest Ranger recruits began their six-month training at the first Rangers-only academy in nearly 30 years. DEC is working in partnership with the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) at their campuses in Wanakena and Newcomb. The campuses provide thousands of acres of varying terrain adjacent to additional DEC wilderness and wild forest lands, similar to what the recruits will encounter once they begin their official duties. The recruits were selected from an eligible list of candidates who took a Civil Service exam and upon graduation, recruits will be assigned patrol public lands across the State.

Town of Hunter
Greene County
Wilderness Recovery:
 On May 22 at 12:35 p.m., Forest Ranger Allwine responded to Platte Cove Road for a report of a fallen hiker. Ranger Allwine was joined by New York State Police, Greene County Paramedics, and Ranger Lieutenant Slade, Rangers Dawson, Ellis, Fox, Jahn, and Kreft. Rangers conducted a technical rope recovery after the individual was pronounced deceased at the scene. The Hopewell Junction woman’s body was transferred to the custody of the Greene County Coroner. Resources were clear at 6:40 p.m. The New York State Police is leading the investigation.

Ranger dangling from ropes near a waterfall during wilderness recovery
Platte Cove recovery

Town of North Elba
Essex County
Wilderness Recovery:
 On May 22 at 2:35 p.m., New York State Police reported a man in his fifties was unconscious on Scarface Mountain. CPR was administered on the trail and the hiker began breathing again, but was still in unstable condition. Forest Ranger Lieutenant LaPierre, and Rangers Curcio, DiCintio, Martin, Mecus, Piersma, and Sabo responded with State Police Aviation, Saranac Lake Fire and Rescue, and a SARNAK search team. The hiker was pronounced deceased at 4:46 p.m. A hoist operation ensued to recover the body of the man from Little Falls. The body was turned over to the Essex County Coroner. Resources were clear at 9:53 p.m.

Town of Poland
Chautauqua County
Wilderness Recovery:
 On May 23 at 1:21 p.m., Forest Ranger Captain Plaisted and Ranger Hettenbaugh responded to a request for assistance with a recovery in the town of Poland. A canoeist drowned in the Conewango Creek. Additional responders included DEC Operations staff, New York State Police, Chautauqua County Tech Rescue, County Sheriff’s Office, and Emergency Services, and the Kennedy, Frewsburg, and Ellington fire departments. By approximately 4:30 p.m., the body was removed from the water and turned over to the Chautauqua County Coroner. Resources were clear at 5:30 p.m.

Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hike Smart NYAdirondack 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.

Author: Harlem Valley News