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 Canadice
Recovery Mission: On Aug. 23 at 11:02 a.m., Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) responded to a search for a missing person from Penfield, Monroe County. The 32-year-old’s car was found at the North Hemlock Boat Launch in Ontario County. The Ontario County Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement agencies joined the search by foot, boat, drone, and K9. The search was suspended at dusk and resumed the following morning. On Aug. 24 at 1:12 p.m., search teams found the subject deceased. After investigators processed the scene, the search team carried the man’s body to bring him to the coroner.
Recovery mission in Hemlock-Canadice State Forest
Town of Forestburgh
Wilderness Rescue: On Aug. 24 at 6 p.m., Forest Rangers responded to a report of a hiker who fell and lost consciousness in the High Falls portion of Neversink Gorge. The 14-year-old from Monticello later regained consciousness. Ranger Martin, New York State Police (NYSP) Troopers, and members of Rock Hill Fire Department started carrying out the hiker. Rangers Jahn and Franceschina assisted in the carry-out and reached the trailhead with the teen by 9:30 p.m. The subject was taken to Garnet Health Medical Center by Hatzalah Ambulance. Resources were clear at 10 p.m.
Town of Keene
Wilderness Rescue: On Aug. 25 at 11:15 a.m., Forest Ranger Lewis responded to a call for a hiker with a torn left quadricep and sprained right ankle near the Little Haystack Mountain summit. The 65-year-old from Slingerlands was accompanied by three other hikers who tried to help keep him going, but were unsuccessful. A NYSP helicopter was called for a hoist rescue. Ranger Lewis was inserted to the location, 4,600 feet up the mountain, and harnessed the injured subject. Ranger Praczkajlo successfully hoisted the subject and Ranger Lewis. The hiker was flown to Adirondack Medical Center at 1:55 p.m.
Little Haystack Mountain rescue
Little Haystack Mountain rescue
Town of Hunter
Wilderness Rescue: On Aug 28 at 1:10 p.m., Forest Rangers Dawson and Allwine and Assistant Forest Ranger Gumbs responded to a call for a subject having trouble swimming in the middle pool of Kaaterskill Falls. The 27-year-old from the Bronx did not know how to swim, reached an area deeper than anticipated, and was struggling to keep their head above water. Bystanders helped the subject out of the water and called 911. Ranger Dawson and a Hunter ambulance crew hiked in and evaluated the subject, who walked out to the trailhead before being transported to Columbia Memorial Health by Hunter Ambulance. Resources were clear at 2:10 p.m.
Town of Harrietstown
Wildland Fire: On Aug. 26 at 5:50 p.m., Forest Rangers responded to a fire in the area of Lonesome Bay, Lower Saranac Lake. Caused by a lightning strike, the fire was considered a single-tree torch that burned 10 feet of ground around the tree. Rangers declared the fire out at 2:30 p.m. the following day.
Saranac Lake lightning strike fire
Town of Mamakating
Wildland Fire: On Aug. 27 at 1:25 p.m., Sullivan County 911 requested Ranger assistance with a fire in the town of Mamakating. The Wurstsboro fire was originally estimated at 20 to 25 acres in a thick and steep ridgeline, making it difficult for Rangers to approach. With the help of NYSP Aviation, Rangers began bucket drops to attack the fire from above. Rangers also worked with multiple fire departments to install a fire line with a bulldozer. On Aug. 29 the fire grew to 70 acres, but five Rangers and 57 volunteers contained the fire with the bulldozer line. The fire is believed to have been started with debris burning.
Mamakating fire bulldozer line
Ranger Jahn and bulldozer at the Mamakating fire
Town of Wawarsing
Wildland Fire: On Aug. 27 at 4:55 p.m., The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) requested Ranger assistance with a 15-acre fire at Naponach Point in Minnewaska State Park. Due to the remote and rugged terrain, NYSP Aviation was called in to help with bucket drops. At 5:28 p.m., with Ranger Gullen serving as crew chief, bucket drops began. On Aug. 28 at 9:54 a.m., dozens of firefighters joined eight Rangers, including DEC volunteer firefighters, two NYSP helicopters, and OPRHP staff. On Aug. 30 at 10 a.m., the fire was estimated at approximately 130 to 150 acres.
Video of both the Mamakating and Napanoch fires is available to download at DEC’s website. Forest Rangers are currently fighting seven wildfires burning more than 200 acres of land. Parts of New York remain under a high fire danger warning. Dry weather throughout the summer has increased the risk of fires. More information about how to reduce the risk of wildfires can be found at DEC’s website.
City of Syracuse
Public Outreach: Forest Rangers are at the Great New York State Fair in Syracuse this week, educating the public about State land use and wildfire prevention. In addition, the Rangers are showing some of the equipment they use and letting people know how they can become Forest Rangers.
Ranger Chappell and Smokey Bear at the Great New York State Fair
Ranger Virkler at the Great New York State Fair
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.