ALBANY, NY — 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 the backcountry.
In 2018, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 346 search and rescue missions, extinguished 105 wildfires that burned a total of 845 acres, participated in 24 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 610 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 2,354 tickets or arrests.
“Across New York, DEC Forest Rangers are on the front lines helping people safely enjoy the great outdoors,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Their knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and technical rescue techniques are critical to the success of their missions, which take them from remote wilderness areas with rugged mountainous peaks, to white-water rivers, and throughout our vast forested areas statewide.”
St. Lawrence County
Town of Hopkinton
Wilderness Search: At approximately 1 p.m. on Sept. 7, a 69-year-old man and a 72-year-old man, both from Canton, were traveling together on the back roads of the Sylvan Falls Hunting Club in a remote part of the town of Hopkinton when their vehicle became stuck. The men were uncertain of their exact location and called St. Lawrence County 911 for help. The 911 center obtained cellphone coordinates and dispatched local emergency personnel to the scene. At 4:33 p.m., the 911 center called DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch requesting Forest Ranger assistance to locate the men. By 9 p.m., two Rangers had searched the area using ATVs and determined the location coordinates were not correct and that the stranded motorists must be elsewhere. Four additional Rangers with ATVs responded and located the men just after midnight. Rangers transported the two men by ATV to St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Deputies by 2:15 a.m., who then transported them back to their residences.
Town of Brighton
Wilderness Rescue: On Sept. 3 at 9:18 p.m., DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance in locating a 71-year-old man from Easton, Conn., overdue from hiking St. Regis Mountain. Forest Ranger Scott Sabo responded and arrived on scene at 9:40 p.m., and started his search from Keese Mills access, sweeping the trail to its junction to the lake trail. From there, the Ranger searched the drainages north and south of the trail attempting to obtain voice contact. The Esker was also swept past Spectacle Pond through Camp Top Ridge back to Keese Mills Road with negative results. Suspending the search until the next day, Forest Ranger Sabo requested six additional Forest Rangers for a 5 a.m. start at Paul Smiths-Gabriels Fire Department. On Sept. 4, the search continued, and the hiker was located at 7:30 a.m., by Forest Rangers in wet but good condition. The hiker said he came a third of the way down St. Regis Mountain and realized he was on a herd path and not the trail. The subject tried to navigate using his phone but ran out of battery power. With impending darkness, he decided to hunker down and spend the night and begin walking at first light. After a brief interview, he was turned over to his sister who had a waiting boat at the launch near the trailhead. The incident concluded at 9:04 a.m.
Partridge Run WMA
Law Enforcement: Forest Rangers have found evidence this summer of illegal underage drinking parties at Partridge Run Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in the town of Berne, including litter and illegal bonfires. Forest Rangers received a tip that another party was set to happen on the night of Sept. 6. Three Forest Rangers and a Lieutenant concealed themselves in the woods near a popular party spot and at 10 p.m., a vehicle towing a trailer loaded with wood pallets arrived. A short time later, eight other vehicles arrived loaded with occupants and Rangers approached the group from the woods. A total of 18 tickets were issued to the group for unlawful possession of marijuana, possession and consumption of alcohol while under 21 years of age, and damage to vegetation on state land.
Town of Long Lake
Wilderness Rescue: At 5:39 p.m. on Sept. 7, Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Ranger Megan McCone reporting an overdue kayaker on Long Lake. Ranger McCone stated that the 70-year-old woman, from The Villages, Fl., was paddling in a yellow kayak and was last seen on the northern side of Long Lake. Under the authority of Capt. John Streiff, Ranger Jim Waters drove the Ranger boat north onto Long Lake to search for the missing woman. Ranger Peter Evans, three Assistant Forest Rangers, a volunteer, and the Raquette Falls Caretaker Gary Valentine searched surrounding waterways. Per Ranger McCone’s request, a plane from Helms Aero Service was utilized to assist in the search. With darkness fast approaching and lightning storms in the area, the plane could not locate the subject and returned to the hamlet of Long Lake. An Assistant Forest Ranger eventually located the missing woman’s kayak on the Cold River. The subject had encountered two other paddlers who brought her to a nearby lean-to for shelter. She was soaking wet from having tipped over in her kayak and was suffering from hypothermia. The woman was transported in a canoe up the Raquette River to Long Lake, given a ride back to the Hamlet of Long Lake by Ranger Waters, and met by Ranger McCone and the woman’s friends. Ranger Waters then returned the next day and transported the woman’s kayak off the Cold River and returned it to the woman by Sunday afternoon.