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.”
Town of Croghan
Dive Exercise: On July 31, Region 6 Forest Rangers assisted the Lewis County Dive Team and the Croghan Volunteer Fire Department with a simulated missing person/possible drowning exercise. Approximately 30 volunteer and professional rescuers participated in classroom demonstrations at the fire hall followed by a live simulation on Soft Maple Reservoir. The Region 6 Air Boat was utilized as a dive platform and also functioned as a safety boat for the exercise.
Town of Pitcairn
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Rescue: On Aug. 3 at 3:57 p.m., New York State Police (NYSP) contacted DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch requesting Forest Ranger assistance with locating a missing 60-year-old woman from Harrisville. She was last seen at her home by her husband, who had been out of the house for 30 minutes only to return to find her gone and the front door of the house partially open. NYSP Aviation and K-9s were on scene and Forest Rangers William Benzel, Nathaniel Shea, Brandon Poulton, Luke Evans and Peter Morehouse responded, arriving on scene at 5:13 p.m. At the request of Forest Ranger Benzel, Lt. Jay Terry requested Forest Rangers Adam Baldwin, Joshua Hogan, and Martin Candee to also assist. Two NYSP K-9 units worked alongside Forest Rangers performing type 1 searches in the area while NYSP Aviation provided support. A NYSP K-9 unit, assisted by Forest Ranger Morehouse, located the woman at 8:36 p.m. and assisted the woman out of the woods on her own power, where she then returned to her residence and was checked by EMS personnel. All Forest Rangers were clear of the scene by 9:50 p.m.
Town of Piercefield
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Rescue: On Aug. 4 at 3:09 p.m., Franklin County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a 45-year-old male hiker with an ankle injury on Mount Arab. Coordinates obtained through Franklin County 911 placed the hiker about a tenth of a mile up the trail. Forest Rangers Nathaniel Shea and Robert Zurek responded to help with a possible carry-out of the hiker. While descending the mountain the hiker slipped and re-aggravated his injured ankle. Forest Rangers, along with Piercefield Fire Department and Tupper Lake Ambulance, carried the hiker from Canastota out to an awaiting ambulance that transported him to a nearby hospital for further treatment.
Town of Colton
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Rescue: On Aug. 4 at 4:20 p.m., a call came into DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch from a counselor at the Boy Scout Camp on Lows Lake. The caller reported that his 45-year-old mother stopped by the camp on Aug. 3 around 3 p.m. The next day they found her vehicle in a ditch near one of the trails leading back into the area of Three Pound Pond and Hornet Ponds. The woman was nowhere to be found and her phone was still in the vehicle. She was last known to be with her brown and white pit bull and possibly injured due to the crash. Forest Rangers William Benzel, Kevin Burns, Peter Evans, Joshua Hogan, Peter Morehouse, Nathaniel Shea, and Robert Zurek responded with six-wheelers and a drone to assist in the search. NYSP Aviation was also requested by Lt. Jay Terry to cover more ground while daylight was favorable. At 5:24 a.m. Forest Ranger Shea reported the woman was located with her dog about 1.5 miles from her last known location. She was found in good health, with minor cuts and bruises. She was provided food and water and was walked out of the woods. She was transported to Town of Piercefield to be evaluated by Tupper Lake Rescue Squad.
Town of Newcomb
Wilderness Rescue: On July 30 at 12:31 p.m., DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance for four members of a group of eight hikers who were stuck near a waterfall after leaving the Flowed Lands in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. The hikers had climbed down to see the waterfall at Hanging Spear Falls and could not get back out. Forest Rangers Kevin Burns, Peter Evans and Robert Praczkajlo responded to retrieve the hikers. NYSP Aviation Helicopter met the Forest Rangers at Lake Placid Airport and flew them into Lake Colden. At 2:14 p.m., Forest Rangers Burns, Evans and Praczkajlo executed a technical rope rescue at Hanging Spear Falls to extract one hiker who was in distress and the remaining hikers were rescued by 2:44 p.m. The Marcy Dam Caretaker also responded to Lake Colden to meet up with the other members of the party who went to get assistance. One member of the reporting group sustained a hand injury while walking through the waterfall. The caretaker escorted the group to the Lake Colden Outpost and then continued to the South Meadows access to enable the main with the hand injury to seek medical assistance. The incident concluded at 4 p.m.
Town of Jefferson
Wilderness Rescue: On July 30 at 3:20 p.m., Forest Ranger Melissa Milano received a phone call from DEC Forester Donald Guest about a man who was lost on Trail 5 at Clapper Hollow State Forest. A short time later, Milano was contacted by Central Dispatch informing her that they had received a call from a 58-year-old man from New York City who was disoriented. Forest Ranger Milano reached out to the gentleman via phone and determined he had been mountain biking on Trail 5. Forest Ranger Milano attempted to provide direction, but the man was nervous and unable to self-rescue so he was instructed to stay put so she could come to his location. Forest Ranger Milano, through her familiarity with the land, was able to locate the mountain biker on the trail at approximately 5:03 p.m. The man was ill prepared for his bike trip and had nothing to drink. Forest Ranger Milano escorted the man out to the trailhead and provided a courtesy transport to a residence where he was staying. The incident concluded at 5:51 p.m.
Town of Bolton
Wilderness Rescue: On July 30 at 9:21 p.m., Warren County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch from two young women who were part of a group from Camp Chingachgook who had lost the trail when they went to retrieve water from the lake on their way to a campsite near Tongue Mountain Range. Using the coordinates obtained through 911, Dispatch was able to place their location just north of Montcalm Point on Lake George. Forest Rangers Charles Kabrehl and Arthur Perryman responded to Green Island, where they took a boat out to Montcalm Point. At the request of Forest Ranger Kabrehl, Dispatch contacted the initial caller and instructed them to head back downhill towards the western shoreline. At 10:49 p.m. the Forest Rangers found the 16-year-old from Davidson, N.C., and the 17-year-old from Troy along the shoreline where the Rangers picked them up and took them back to their camp.
Town of Santa Clara
Wilderness Rescue: On July 30 at 9:04 p.m., Franklin County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch from a female hiker who had been separated from her husband while hiking St. Regis Mountain. The woman was concerned because it was dark. She reported that her husband did not have a cell phone or any source of light and that her only light source was the phone. Dispatch advised her against using the flash light function on her phone to conserve battery life. Using coordinates obtained through Franklin County 911, Dispatch was able to confirm that she was still on the St. Regis trail. Forest Rangers David Russell and Thomas Gliddi responded and by 12:02 a.m., they made contact with the caller. Forest Ranger Gliddi continued up the trail to search for her husband. At 12:49 a.m., Forest Ranger Gliddi had made it to the summit, followed a ridgeline, and down a drainage without making contact. Forest Ranger Gliddi met back up with Forest Ranger Russell and the wife and proceeded back to the trailhead where a note was left on her husband’s car to call Dispatch if he made it out to his vehicle. A courtesy ride was given to his wife back to Malone. On July 31 at first light, additional Forest Rangers were dispatched to the trailhead to continue search operations. The missing 24-year-old hiker was located at 7:09 a.m. by Forest Ranger Robert Zurek in good health and brought to the trailhead. The hiker stated he hiked for an hour after he left his wife when he realized he could not find the trail and waited for morning. At first light, the hiker climbed a tree, spotted the fire tower at the summit, and hiked to the summit where he located the trail and started down toward the trailhead.
City of Albany
Prescribed Fire: On Aug. 1, Forest Rangers Christine Nelson, Aimee Bills and Ian Kerr, Albany Pine Bush staff, The Nature Conservancy staff, U.S. National Park Service, and Albany Pine Bush volunteers conducted a 12.3-acre prescribed burn at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve in a wood lot near the Madison Avenue Trailhead. This treatment, in a mowed pitch pine scrub oak forest, will increase openings in the Pine Barrens to allow wild blue lupine to flourish and improve the preserve’s habitat for the Karner Blue Butterfly.
Town of HarrietstownOn Aug. 2 at 2:34 p.m., Forest Ranger James Waters contacted DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a 12-year-old male camper from New York City who was ill on the Raquette River. Camp Counselors requested an evacuation of the camper. Forest Ranger Peter Evans along with the Raquette Falls Caretaker responded to assist in a boat rescue. Forest Ranger Evans arrived at 3:20 p.m. and met the Caretaker at Axton Landing, where they took a boat up the river and reached the camper at 4:15 p.m. The camper was transported back to Axton Landing for medical attention. Forest Ranger Evans waited with the camper until camp officials from Farm and Wilderness came to pick him up and take him back to the camp in Vermont.
Town of Hardenburgh
Community Outreach: On Aug. 3, Forest Ranger Robert Stratton and Assistant Forest Ranger Travis Acuna attended a 100-year anniversary for the Balsam Lake Fire Tower. Visitors were able to climb the tower and hear about the history of the area. A celebration of the 75th anniversary of Smokey Bear was also held, with Smokey Bear making an appearance at the tower welcoming visitors. To finish up the weekend celebrations, there was an open house at the Dry Brook Community Hall on Sunday, August 4, where there were numerous fire tower displays available for viewing by visitors. For more information about other DEC events planned to celebrate Smokey Bear’s anniversary, go to DEC’s website.