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DEC Forest Rangers: Week in review

  • / Updated:
  • Concetta Durso 

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 Indian Lake
Hamilton County
Wilderness Rescue: On July 28 at 8 p.m., Forest Rangers Miller, Nally, and Thompson responded to a report of a hiker lost on OK Slip Falls. Cell phone coordinates put the 37-year-old from Corinth near Whortleberry Pond, approximately two miles west of OK Slip Falls. After checking the trail register and confirming he was planning to hike OK Slip Falls, Rangers started searching trails in that area. Ranger Thompson found fresh tracks on a trail heading towards Whortleberry Pond. At 11 p.m. Rangers made voice contact with the hiker who took a wrong trail early in the hike and became turned around. When it was dark, he stopped, built a fire, and called for help. At 11:40 p.m., Rangers located the subject in good condition and walked with him to the trailhead. Resources were clear at 2:07 a.m.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue: On Aug. 1 at 10:08 a.m., Forest Ranger Lewis responded to a call for a hiker with a head injury on the east side of Pitchoff Mountain. Less than half an hour later, Ranger Lewis reached the 67-year-old from New Jersey and bandaged her head. Ranger Lewis walked the hiker and the rest of her hiking party to the trailhead by 12:45 p.m.

Town of Alfred
Allegany County
Professional Course Instruction:  On Aug. 1, Forest Rangers Krulish and Thaine taught the New York State Division of Criminal Justice (DCJS) Missing Persons Cases course at the Police Academy at Alfred State. Recent hires and aspiring police officers received training in state and federal laws about the reporting of missing persons. That training includes the preliminary investigation of missing persons cases involving subjects with special needs, when to issue appropriate missing persons alerts, and how Forest Rangers organize, manage, and assist agencies in wilderness searches.

Ranger Krulish instructs academy cadets in Forest Ranger search operations

Town of Webb
Herkimer County
Unattended Fire: On Aug. 2 at 6:15 a.m., the Alger Island Caretaker contacted Forest Ranger McCartney to report a lean-to on fire. Ranger McCartney, Lieutenant Hoag, and the Old Forge Fire Department responded. Half an hour later, the fire was under control, but the lean-to was a total loss. Fire crews knocked the remaining structure to the ground and surrounded it with caution tape and fencing. The following afternoon, the fire was declared out. The fire began as an unattended fire that spread to the lean-to. Rangers remind all campers to never leave a fire unattended; it doesn’t take heavy winds to spread fire quickly. When finished with a fire, it should be drowned with water to ensure there are no remaining hot spots.

Unattended fire on Alger Island

Town of Fort Ann

Washington County
Wilderness Rescue: On Aug. 2 at 3 p.m., Ray Brook dispatch requested Forest Ranger assistance for a hiker with an ankle injury approximately half-a-mile down from the summit of Buck Mountain. Rangers Donegan and Poulton reached the 17-year-old from Guilderland at 4:40 p.m. and splinted her ankle. Rangers helped the hiker down the mountain until they reached Ranger Morehouse with an ATV, who drove her to the trailhead. Resources were clear at 6:13 p.m.

Village of Waterloo
Seneca County
National Night Out: On Aug. 2, Forest Ranger Roberts was joined by Environmental Conservation Police Officers, members of the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office, Waterloo Police, and New York State Police in a ‘National Night Out’ program in Waterloo. There were approximately 500 people in attendance. Ranger Roberts talked to visitors about hiking preparedness, Leave No TraceTM principals, and showed them the kind of equipment Rangers use every day.

Village of Morris
Otsego County
Public Outreach: On Aug 4 and 5, Forest Ranger Petit and Smokey Bear attended the Otsego County Fair in the village of Morris. Ranger Petit educated the public on fire safety, how to be prepared in the outdoors, and state land use regulations. Ranger Petit also provided recruitment information for aspiring Forest Rangers. The deadline to apply for the civil service exam was extended to Aug. 10, 2022. The Civil Service Exam is Sept. 17, 2022. More information is available on the DEC website.

Ranger Petit with Smokey Bear at the Otsego County Fair

Town of Colchester
Delaware County
Campground Violations: On Aug. 6 at 8 a.m., Forest Rangers responded to a call from the Bear Spring Campground caretaker after multiple camper complaints about a loud group overnight. Rangers interviewed the uncooperative group and noticed multiple violations. Tickets were issued to the permit holder for violating quiet hours, illegal tree cutting, and failure to remove garbage. Rangers and campground staff then evicted the group. Resources were clear at 1:35 p.m.

Camping violations and eviction

Town of North Hudson
Essex County
Wildland Fire: On Aug. 7 at 5:55 p.m., Forest Rangers Donegan and St. Claire responded to a wildland fire report east of Pharaoh Lake in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area. With Ranger Nally serving as hoist operator, New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation dropped Rangers Donegan and St. Claire to the fire location. The fire includes areas with steep ledges and measures approximately five to six acres. Four more Rangers arrived by boat and by foot the next day. The fire is not threatening the public or any buildings, but is currently not fully contained.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

DEC continues to urge New Yorkers to practice the utmost safety when building campfires this summer. Dry weather throughout June and July has increased the risk of fires. More information about how to reduce the risk of wildfires can be found here.

Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area fire

Town of Fine
St. Lawrence County
Forest Ranger Academy: The Division of Forest Protection’s 23rd Basic School for Forest Rangers continued at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Ranger School campus in Wanakena. Ranger recruits recently received training in Domestic Violence Prevention, Helicopter Operations, and Wildfire Investigations. They also completed their final Physical Abilities Test as they prepare to leave Wanakena for training in Oriskany for the rest of the month. Upon graduation, recruits will be assigned to patrol public lands across the state.

Ranger recruits at helicopter training
Ranger recruits at the Ranger Academy

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.