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DEC Forest Rangers – Week in review

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. Some of these incidents featured each week result in injuries, property damage, or even death, and starting this year, the “DEC Statewide Forest Ranger Highlights” is transitioning to a new title, “Forest Rangers – Week In Review.”

“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 Mayfield
Fulton County
River Search:
 On March 21 at 3:40 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch requested Forest Ranger assistance with a potential search after a kayak was seen floating down the Kennyetto River. Forest Rangers Kerr, Morehouse, Nally, Scott, and Thompson were joined by New York State Police, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, and Mayfield Fire. At approximately 5:30 p.m., the kayak was retrieved. The search concluded after Rangers determined the kayak had been tied to a tree and likely broke free after the ice melted. 

Town of Riverhead
Suffolk County
Prescribed Burn:
 On March 21 and March 22, Forest Rangers Gagne, Gallagher, Hicks, Jackson, Miller, Scott, and Slade took part is a series of prescribed burns in Suffolk County. The prescribed burns serve as both a training tool for Rangers and support local land management efforts. These fires targeted 42 acres of grasslands in the Otis Pike Pine Barrens State Forest in the town of Riverhead, and help control the incursion of woody vegetation, knock back invasive species, and maintain prime habitat for ground nesting birds. Staff from DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests joined DEC volunteers and staff from Brookhaven National Lab and Pine Barrens Commission to assist with the burn.

Town of Mamakating
Sullivan County
Wildland Fire:
 On March 22 at 4:15 p.m., Forest Ranger Franke responded to an open burn off Route 209 in the town of Mamakating. A 41-year-old from Manhattan was burning brush and had left the fire unattended. Due to high winds and dry conditions, the fire spread to approximately 2.5 acres of land. Westbrookville Fire responded and had the fire under control by 4:45 p.m. Ranger Franke issued tickets to the subject for violating New York’s statewide brush burn ban.

New York’s annual statewide brush burning ban is in effect through May 14. Since 2009, DEC has enforced the ban to prevent wildfires and protect communities during heightened conditions for wildfires each spring. Backyard fire pits and campfires less than three feet in height and four feet in length, width, or diameter are allowed. Small cooking fires are allowed, but only charcoal or dry, clean, untreated, or unpainted wood can be burned. People should never leave these or any fires unattended and must extinguish them. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round. For more information about fire safety and prevention, go to DEC’s FIREWISE New York website.

Town of Wilmington
Essex County
Avalanche Training:
 On March 25, Forest Rangers Black, Curcio, and Martin participated in avalanche training at Whiteface Mountain. The National Ski Patrol avalanche class focused on safe travel, snow pack awareness, proper use of rescue equipment, and companion rescue. A final exercise involved the recovery of three “skiers” buried in an avalanche. Utilizing avalanche beacons, probes, and shovels, the students locate and dig out the skiers while safely working in an avalanche zone. Rangers received an Avalanche 1 certificate from the National Ski Patrol at the completion of the course. For information about how backcountry users can prepare for potential avalanche conditions, visit

City of Auburn
Cayuga County
Wildland Fire Training: 
On March 25, Forest Rangers Chappell and Virkler instructed the Basic Wildland Fire Suppression Skills Course at the Auburn Fire Department Academy. Sixteen firefighters from Auburn, Cortland, Oswego, and Manlius fire departments attended to learn the basic concepts of wildland fire suppression.

Town of Fishkill
Dutchess County
Community Outreach:
 On March 26, Forest Rangers Jahn and Pries participated in the Sharpe Reservation’s 17th Annual Maple Festival. Approximately 850 people attended the event. Rangers Jahn and Pries joined Smokey Bear to teach visitors about the importance of wildfire prevention and safety.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hike Smart NYAdirondack 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.