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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 Watson
Lewis County

Wilderness Rescue:
 On Sept. 14 at 1 p.m., Forest Rangers responded to the Otter Creek horse trails in the Independence Wild Forest after receiving reports of a subject who was thrown from her horse, suffering a possible spine injury. Martinsburg Fire Department arrived on scene and secured the 32-year-old from Clarence Center to a back board. Ranger Evans arrived with a six-wheeler and customized litter carrier to transport the patient to a waiting Lewis County Search and Rescue ambulance. Resources were clear by 1:45 p.m.

Town of Duane
Franklin County

Wilderness Recovery:
 On Sept. 14 at 4:18 p.m., New York State Police requested Forest Ranger assistance with locating an emotionally distressed subject reported missing by family. Ranger Balerno found the subject’s car at Debar Pond at 5:50 p.m. At 8:50 p.m., Ranger Curcio located the 37-year-old from Owls Head, deceased. The subject was turned over to the county coroner. Rangers Lewis and Praczkajlo and several retired Rangers assisted in the search. Resources were clear at 10:30 p.m.

Town of Watson
Lewis County

Suicide Attempt:
 On Sept. 15 at 12:34 p.m., Ranger Hanno responded to a call for an attempted suicide at a home in the town of Watson. Ranger Hanno found the 63-year-old subject in her basement with cuts to both wrists and her husband trying to stop the bleeding. Ranger Hanno wrapped the wrists and applied pressure until Lewis County Search and Rescue paramedics arrived. The patient was taken to the hospital. Resources were clear by 1 p.m.

If you or someone you know is in need of mental health assistance, help is available. The New York State Office of Mental Health has resources on its website or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

City of Albany
Albany County
Prescribed Burn: 
On Sept. 16, Forest Rangers Mitchell and Skudlarek joined staff from the Albany Pine Bush and volunteer firefighters to conduct a six-acre prescribed burn at the Albany Pine Bush. This burn will help restore the naturally fire-dependent ecosystem by reducing non-native species and opening up the area to allow for the growth of warm-season grasses and other native vegetation.

Town of Keene
Essex County

Wilderness Rescue:
 On Sept. 17 at 6 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch requested Forest Ranger assistance for a hiker in medical distress on the summit of Basin Mountain. Ranger Lewis made contact with the group of hikers with a subject who has a history of cardiac issues and was lethargic, vomiting uncontrollably, and unable to move on his own. Ranger Lewis requested New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation for a hoist rescue. The helicopter launched from Lake Clear with Ranger O’Connor serving as crew chief. Ranger Lewis was hoisted to the 70-year-old from Quebec and packaged him in a harness so Ranger O’Connor could successfully hoist the subject into the helicopter. The hiker went to Adirondack Medical Center for treatment and was released. Resources were clear at 1 a.m.

Town of Cheektowaga
Erie County
Public Outreach:
 On Sept. 17, Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve held its annual fall festival with more than 500 people in attendance. Ranger Krulish discussed his work as a Forest Ranger with display boards highlighting the Rangers’ role in public land protection, search and rescue, and wildland fire management.

Hamlet of Delmar
Albany County
Public Outreach: 
On Sept. 17, Ranger Mitchell and Smokey Bear attended the fall festival at Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar. More than 2,000 people attended the family-friendly environmental celebration featuring hands-on educational activities, interactive exhibits, interpretive walks, and outdoor safety tips from Ranger Mitchell and Smokey Bear.

Town of Sardinia
Erie County
Search and Rescue Training: 
On Sept. 17, Forest Rangers Kennedy and Thaine taught members of the Hamburg S.W.A.T team, Niagara Frontier Search and Rescue (NFSAR), and various local fire departments the Basic Wildland Search Skills (BWSS) course to educate students about the training and skills necessary to provide assistance during search and rescue incidents. The course was held at the Chafee-Sardinia Fire Department; field exercises were conducted at Erie County Forest.

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.