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 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 Watson
Missing Child Found: On May 11 at 10:18 a.m., Ranger Hanno overheard radio traffic about a missing three-year-old boy with two dogs, possibly in the woods behind a property in the town of Watson. Upon arrival, Rangers and sheriff’s deputies confirmed the child was not in the residence or outbuildings on the property. The family regularly walks the trails behind the home, so crews began searching that area. Searching also took place across the street, where the child was last seen on a resident’s camera at 9:47 a.m., and a diaper was found further north of the home. At 1:45 p.m., a logger found the child approximately 1.29 miles from the family’s home, drove the child out to the road, and alerted a Ranger and deputy the child had been found. The child was evaluated by Lewis County Search and Rescue and released to his parents. Resources were clear at 3 p.m.
Town of Depeyster
St. Lawrence County
Illegal Dumping: On May 6, Forest Ranger Terry responded to a complaint about truckloads of pallets being driven onto State land and left in a pile in a large field on Fish Creek Wildlife Management Area. While investigating the area, a white pickup truck drove up to the original pile of pallets with an additional load. Ranger Terry spoke to the driver and determined a party was planned for the following evening. Ranger Terry issued tickets to the three people responsible for illegally depositing trash on State land.
Town of Pitcairn
St. Lawrence County
Rope Rescue Training: On May 12, Forest Rangers from DEC Regions 5 and 6 gathered at Toothaker Creek State Forest for part two of their annual operations-level technical rope rescue refresher training. Fifteen Rangers trained to improve proficiency in the use of the use of Dual Capability Two-Tension Rope Systems and the Pike and Pivot technique to perform a vertical litter hoist without the use of a high-directional anchor. This system is used to efficiently negotiate the edge transition when performing vertical rope rescue operations.
Village of Suffern
Wildfire: On May 10, Forest Rangers responded to a wildfire in Harriman State Park. Working with Palisades Interstate Park Commission Park Rangers and volunteer firefighters, Rangers successfully brought the fire under control. The fire was in steep, rocky terrain and burned 62 acres of land, making it the largest wildfire in Region 3 this year. Drone video of the fire is available on the DEC website at https://www.dec.ny.gov/fs/
Towns of Hamden, Hancock, Deposit, Maryland
Delaware and Otsego Counties
Wildfires: From May 10 to 16, Forest Rangers responded to multiple wildfires in Delaware and Otsego counties. Rangers assisted local fire departments with suppression and enforcement actions, along with periodic patrols during the week to check each fire’s status. The size of wildfires ranged from 1.9 to 11.1 acres. The fires were caused by illegal debris burning and utility work on power lines.
Towns of Burns and Grove
Wildfires: On May 11 at 1 p.m., Forest Rangers Krulish and Thaine responded to a fire in the town of Burns. The homeowner was burning debris when the fire escaped his control and burned his home. When Rangers arrived, the fire was already suppressed and the American Red Cross, local resources, Canaseraga Fire Chief, and Allegany County Emergency Services Coordinator assisting the displaced homeowner.
Many of the same fire department volunteers were dispatched to a second wildfire in the nearby town of Grove. This fire was burning a wooded hillside in a steep and rugged location and Ranger assistance was requested. Rangers worked with local fire departments to contain the fire at 2.6 acres. A resident burning debris behind their home was ticketed for lighting a fire that endangers property of another. Volunteers from Canaseraga, Arkport, Nunda, Dansville, Birdsall, and Short Tract fire departments and Canaseraga and Nunda Ambulance also assisted.
Town of Rotterdam
Fire Suppression Training: On May 11 and 15, Forest Rangers Mitchell and Skudlarek led DEC’s Basic Wildland Fire Suppression training for 19 firefighters from eight different departments in the region. The training was hosted at Schonowe Volunteer Fire Company and taught firefighters wildland fire behavior, safety, equipment usage, and suppression techniques. Training also included a practical field exercise to demonstrate techniques.
Village of Little Valley
Technical Rope Rescue Training: On May 12 and 13, Forest Rangers from DEC regions 8 and 9 took part in their annual high angle rescue training. Instructors from across the state led Rangers on Dual Capability Two-Tension Rope Systems, hot changeovers from lowers to raises and back. The training was held at Little Rock City State Forest.
Town of Herkimer
Swift Water Rescue Training: On May 13, Forest Rangers from DEC Regions 5, 6, and 7 gathered in the town of Herkimer to train in the waters of the West Canada Creek. This training is an annual refresher of the Swift Water Technician training program. Eighteen Forest Rangers refreshed skills about various river dynamic characteristics including eddies, hydraulics, pillows, strainers, and upstream and downstream “Vs.” Participants practiced wading, swimming, and crossing techniques used in swift water rescue operations. Tethered swimmer rescues were also performed. Additionally, Rangers tested their proficiency using inflatable kayaks to navigate swift water conditions.
Town of Moreau
Wildfire: From May 13 to 16, Forest Rangers responded to a fire that burned more than 16 acres at Moreau State Park. Rangers were joined by more than 100 firefighters from 16 fire departments. Among the techniques to help control the blaze was the use of a bulldozer driven by a State Parks employee to create a fire line.
Town of Hunter
Wilderness Rescue: On May 14 at 6:04 p.m., Forest Rangers Fox and Mitchell responded to a report of an injured hiker on the Mary’s Glen Trail in the North/South Lake Campground. When Rangers arrived, the subject had already made it out of the woods with help from her hiking party. Ranger Fox assessed the ankle and knee injuries. The subject advised she would seek medical attention on her own. Rangers helped the hiking party back to their vehicle at South Lake and resources were clear at 8:20 p.m.
Town of North Elba
Wilderness Rescue: On May 14 at 7:37 p.m., Ranger Praczkajlo responded to a report of an unknown medical event on the Jackrabbit Trail off McKenzie Pond Road. Along with Saranac Lake Rescue, Ranger Praczkajlo reached the 40-year-old from Saranac Lake and helped carry him out of the woods and so he could be taken to the hospital. Resources were clear at 8:54 p.m.
City of Campville
Fire Suppression Training: On May 14 and 15, Forest Rangers led the New York State DEC Basic Wildland Fire Suppression course to volunteer firefighters at the Campville Fire Department in Tioga County. Thirteen firefighters learned about fire behavior, suppression techniques, and firefighter safety.
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hike Smart NY, Adirondack Backcountry Information, and C
atskill 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: https://www.dec.ny.