DEC Forest Rangers – Week in Review

For release: Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Recent Statewide Ranger Actions

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) rangers respond to search and rescue incidents throughout the state. Working with other state agencies, local emergency response organizations, and volunteer search and rescue groups, Forest Rangers locate and retrieve lost, injured, or distressed people across the state of New York.

In 2021, DEC 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 past decade, as well as during the COVID-19 pandemic, DEC has seen an increase in the number of people visiting state lands to experience New York City’s many outdoor recreation opportunities,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC’s Forest Rangers continue to be on the front lines of helping visitors get out responsibly and return home safely, as well as protecting our state’s irreplaceable natural resources. Rangers’ knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and lifesaving techniques are essential to the success of their missions, which for more than a century have taken them from remote wilderness areas with rugged mountain peaks, to whitewater rivers, and across our vast statewide forests.”

Town of Watson
Lewis County
Wilderness rescue:
At 1 p.m. September 14, Forest Rangers responded to the Otter Creek Horse Trails in the Independence Wilderness after receiving reports of a subject who was thrown from his horse, suffering from a possible spinal injury. The Martinsburg Fire Department arrived on the scene and secured the 32-year-old Clarence Center man on a backboard. Ranger Evans arrived with a six-wheeled vehicle and a custom trash carrier to transport the patient to a waiting Lewis County Search and Rescue ambulance. Resources were cleared at 1:45 p.m.

Ranger Evans secures the object of a custom six-wheeler

Town of Duane
Franklin County
Recovery from nature:
On September 14 at 4:18 p.m., New York State Police requested the assistance of rangers in locating an emotionally distressed subject reported missing by his family. Ranger Balerno found the subject’s car in Debar Pond at 5:50 p.m. At 8:50 p.m., Ranger Curcio located the deceased 37-year-old Owls Head man. The matter was referred to the county coroner. Rangers Lewis and Praczkajlo and several retired Rangers participated in the search. Resources were clear at 10:30 p.m.

Town of Watson
Lewis County
Suicide attempt:
At 12:34 p.m. on September 15, Ranger Hanno responded to a call for 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 his wrists and applied pressure until Lewis County Search and Rescue paramedics arrived. The patient was taken to hospital. Resources were clear at 1 p.m.

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

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

Rangers watch the directed fire, smoke rises over the grass to the trees
Prescribed burning at Albany Pine Bush

Rangers in yellow take a group photo during a directed shot
Prescribed burning at Albany Pine Bush

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
At 6 p.m. Sept. 17, Ray Brook Dispatch requested ranger assistance for a hiker in medical distress at the top of Basin Mountain. Ranger Lewis contacted the hiking party with a subject who had a history of heart problems and was lethargic, vomiting uncontrollably and unable to move on his own. Ranger Lewis called in the New York State Police (NYSP) Air Force to perform a winch rescue. The helicopter took off from Clear Lake with Ranger O’Connor as team leader. Ranger Lewis was hoisted to the 70-year-old man from Quebec and wrapped him in a harness so Ranger O’Connor could successfully hoist the subject into the helicopter. The hiker went to the Adirondack Medical Center for treatment and was released. Resources were clear at 1am

fog rises above the top of a mountain
Basin Mountain Winch Rescue

Town of Cheektowaga
Erie County
Public awareness:
On September 17, Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve held its annual fall festival with over 500 people in attendance. Ranger Krulish talked about his work as a ranger with display boards highlighting the role of Rangers in protecting public lands, search and rescue and dealing with wildfires.

People sit on a bench as Ranger gives a presentation
Ranger Krulish at the Reinstein Woods Fall Festival

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

Ranger and Smokey Bear pose for a photo in front of the Five Rivers building
Ranger Mitchell and Smokey Bear at the Five Rivers Fall Festival

City of Sardinia
Erie County
Search and rescue training:
On September 17, Rangers Kennedy and Thaine taught members of the Hamburg SWAT 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 needed. provide assistance during search and rescue incidents. The course was held at the Chafee-Sardinia Fire Department; field exercises were conducted in the Erie County Forest.

Rangers and emergency personnel taking directions during the training course
Ranger Kennedy conducting search and rescue training

People in the woods during search and rescue training
Search and rescue training at Erie County Forest

Be sure to prepare and plan well before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hike Smart NY, Adirondack Backcountry Information, and Catskill Backcountry Information webpages for more information.

If anyone needs a ranger, whether for search and rescue, reporting a wildfire, or reporting illegal activity on state lands and easements, they should call 833- NYS-RANGERS. If someone needs urgent help, they can call 911. To contact a ranger for information about a specific location, the DEC website has the phone numbers for each ranger listed by region.

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