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.”
State of Montana
Wildfire Response: On Aug. 4, Forest Ranger Kabrehl departed for a two-week assignment at the Big Knife fire in Montana. Ranger Kabrehl, based in Warren County, served as a Task Force Leader supervising a crew of wildland firefighters from across the country. The fire has burned approximately 7,300 acres and is currently 13 percent contained. Ranger Kabrehl discusses his experience in a video available for download.
Big Knife Fire
Big Knife Fire
State of Idaho
Wildfire Response: On Aug. 5, Forest Rangers Gallagher and Mecus departed for a two-week assignment at the Ridge Creek fire in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. Forest Ranger Gallagher, based on Long Island, first served as Deputy Logistics Chief to help build up a camp with 23 tents, power, and cell service. Once that task was completed, Ranger Gallagher moved to his assigned duty of Supply Unit Leader. Based in Essex and Franklin counties, Ranger Mecus served as Planning Section Chief, supporting more than 200 wildland firefighters. On Aug. 13, Ranger Carpenter, based in Steuben County, was assigned to the same fire as Safety Officer. The fire has burned approximately 4,359 acres and is 32 percent contained. Rangers Gallagher and Mecus
Ridge Creek morning operations
Ridge Creek fire camp
Burnout efforts at Ridge Creek
Town of Arietta
Fugitive Search: For the last five months, Forest Ranger Lieutenant Kerr and Rangers Hamm, Nally, and Thompson assisted the U.S. Marshals Service in the search for a wanted fugitive from Gloversville. The 35-year-old had been living in the woods on State land with minimal outside contact. On Aug. 22 while on patrol, Rangers Hamm and Thompson spotted the subject camping near Chubb Lake. The Rangers contacted the Marshals who tracked the suspect for the next day and arrested them in Schenectady on Aug. 23 without incident. The suspect was wanted on a parole violation and suspicion of making bomb threats.
Wanted fugitive caught
Wanted fugitive caught
City of Albany
Prescribed Fire: On Aug. 23, Forest Ranger Jackson joined Albany Pine Bush Preserve staff to conduct a prescribed burn of seven acres at the Pine Bush. Prescribed fires help prevent the spread of invasive species, reduce the risk of uncontrolled wildfires, and benefit species like the eastern hognose by maintaining the habitat necessary for survival.
Forest Ranger Jackson moves eastern hognose from the burn area
Prescribed fire at Albany Pine Bush
Town of Middlefield
Wilderness Recovery: On Aug. 23 at 10:30 a.m., Forest Ranger Cooley overheard radio traffic about a missing hiker. Otsego County Sheriff’s Department staged a command post. Officers were advised by the hiker’s coworkers that the 61-year-old’s car had been in the parking lot since Aug. 20, and that he was hiking Natty Bumppo’s Cave. Forest Ranger Cooley and Sheriff’s Deputies searched the trail to the caves and continued to the bottom of the cliffs. A Deputy called the subject’s cell phone and heard it ringing. At 12:00 p.m., Forest Ranger Cooley spotted a blue object in the woods, which turned out to be the deceased hiker. The subject was transported to the local coroner. Resources were clear at 2 p.m.
Village of Pittsford
Public Outreach: On Aug. 23, Forest Ranger Lieutenant Wickens and Forest Ranger Raffaldi-Smith spoke to children at Summer Adventure Camp in Pittsford. The four-day camp featured outdoor recreational opportunities and provided campers with presentations about environmental careers. Rangers explained preparedness using a game where campers chose 10 items to put in their day packs specific to an activity of their choice. Once complete, each group explained why they chose each item. Rangers then demonstrated what they keep in their day packs and the 10 essentials everyone should bring to be prepared.
Forest Ranger Raffaldi-Smith at Summer Adventure Camp
Town of North Hudson
Wilderness Rescue: On Aug. 23 at 4:00 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch alerted Forest Rangers to an injured hiker on the Beckhorn Trail on Dix Mountain. Rangers requested New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation. NYSP Pilot Beck flew Forest Rangers to the scene. At 5:40 p.m., Ranger Praczkajlo inserted Ranger Corey to the victim. Ranger Corey stabilized the hiker’s knee injury and then secured the 23-year-old from Rochester for a hoist. Ranger Praczkajlo hoisted the hiker into the helicopter so they could be flown to the hospital. Ranger Corey hiked the subject’s companion and their gear back to Elk Lake. Resources were clear at 9:45 p.m.
Dix Mountain Rescue
Town of Shandaken
Wilderness Rescue: On Aug. 26 at 4:00 p.m., a hiking party called DEC’s Woodland Valley Campground to report one of the group had injured their ankle. The caretaker called Ray Brook Dispatch, which informed Forest Ranger Lieutenant Slade about the situation. Since the subject was approximately 3,300 feet up the trail, approximately a quarter mile from the Wittenberg Mountain summit in remote, rugged terrain, Lieutenant Slade called New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation for assistance. Rangers Horn and Sweeney hiked up to the 25-year-old from Brooklyn. Rangers Fox, Kreft, and Stratton met NYSP Aviation at the Catskills Visitor Center. NYSP Pilots Leeder and Plitsch flew to the Wittenberg summit where Ranger Stratton inserted Rangers Fox and Kreft, who met up with Rangers Horn and Sweeney, splinted the injured ankle, and prepared the subject for a hoist. At 7:40 p.m., the hiker was hoisted and returned to the Catskill Visitors Center where Shandaken Paramedics provided an evaluation. Forest Rangers reached the campground with the remainder of the hiking party at 10:30 p.m. Video of the hoist rescue is available for download.
Wittenberg Mountain Rescue
Wittenberg Mountain Rescue
Wittenberg Mountain Rescue
Town of North Elba
Wilderness Rescue: On Aug. 26 at 5:26 p.m., Forest Ranger O’Connor responded to a call for a subject who had fallen off a bicycle while riding on the Peninsula Nature Trails. Ranger O’Connor quickly reached the 66-year-old from Saranac Lake, who was bleeding from his head and complained about sharp pain from his forehead, elbow, and knee. The subject was not wearing a helmet. Forest Ranger O’Connor helped the subject to the trailhead. A Lake Placid ambulance transported him to the hospital. Resources were clear by 6:15 p.m.
City of Rochester
Public Outreach: On Aug. 28, Forest Ranger Lieutenant Wickens, Forest Ranger Raffaldi-Smith, and Smokey Bear visited the Full Heart Children’s Center. They discussed camping and fire safety and learned what summer activities the children enjoyed most. Ranger Raffaldi-Smith and Smokey utilized a mock campsite and campfire to teach attendees about the importance of extinguishing fire.
Forest Ranger Raffaldi-Smith teaches campfire safety
Forest Ranger Raffaldi-Smith and Smokey Bear at Full Heart Children’s Center
City of Syracuse
Public Outreach: Forest Rangers are part of the festivities at the 13-day, Great New York State Fair. At the Fair, Rangers discuss their role helping the public through search and rescues, fire prevention, and law enforcement. More information on the State Fair is available at their website.
Forest Rangers Chappell and Lunt with DEC Commissioner Seggos
Forest Ranger vehicles at the 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.