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 2022, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 359 search and rescue missions, extinguished 162 wildfires covering more than 1,300 acres, participated in 53 prescribed fires that served to rejuvenate nearly 900 acres of land, and worked on cases that resulted in hundreds of tickets and arrests.
“With more people visiting State lands and enjoying New York's myriad, world-class outdoor recreational opportunities, DEC’s Forest Rangers are on the front lines to help visitors get outside responsibly and get home safely,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Each day, these highly trained first responders are protecting irreplaceable natural resources and utilizing their expert knowledge of wildland fire suppression, wilderness first aid, land navigation, law enforcement, and technical rescue techniques to successfully execute critical missions, for DEC and our countless local, state, and national partners."
City of Albany
Prescribed Fire: On May 23, Forest Rangers and Albany Pine Bush Preserve staff conducted a prescribed burn of 20 acres at the Albany Pine Bush near the intersection of Point of Woods Drive and Madison Avenue. Prescribed fires help prevent the spread of invasive species and reduce the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. More information and video about prescribed fires is available here: https://fb.watch/k6ilqgLw-R/
Prescribed fire at Albany Pine Bush (two photos attached)
Town of Newcomb
Training: On May 21 through 26, 26 Assistant Forest Rangers (AFRs) took part in training to learn about Leave No TraceTM principles, wilderness first aid, map and compass skills, and wildfire prevention. As part of this trail maintenance workshop, a group of Forest Rangers and AFRs helped SUNY ESF Outreach Program Manager O’Connell with the rehabilitation of the Goodnow Mountain fire tower trail. Thanks to their regrading and stepping stone work, there is now better access to the trail.
Assistant Forest Rangers working on trail maintenance (photo attached)
Assistant Forest Ranger wilderness first aid training (photo attached)
Assistant Forest Ranger training (photo attached)
Village of Hoosick Falls
Wildland Fire: On May 23 at 3:20 p.m., Rensselaer County requested Forest Ranger assistance with a wildland fire at the Bennington Battlefield. Rangers worked with Hoosick Falls Fire Department, North Bennington Fire Department, North Hoosick Fire Department, Shaftesbury Fire Department, and Rensselaer County Emergency Services to get the fire under control. The 0.8-acre fire was fully contained by 5 p.m., and declared out the following morning at 11 a.m.
Wildland fire in Hoosick Falls (photo attached)
Ranger Allwine at Hoosick Falls fire (photo attached)
Town of Granville
Wildland Fire: On May 25 at 10:44 a.m., Washington County requested Forest Ranger assistance with the search for an 85-year-old with dementia who walked away from her home. Her husband had last seen her at 9 p.m. the previous day. Ranger Boulton tracked the subject’s foot path through leaf litter and found her laying in the woods off an ATV trail at 12:01 p.m. The subject was disoriented and cold, but uninjured.
Town of Horicon
Wilderness Rescue: On May 26 at 2:39 p.m., while on patrol to Pharaoh Lake, Forest Ranger Kabrehl found a 14-year-old from Maryland with a leg injury. The teenager was hiking ahead of his mother. Ranger Kabrehl compression-wrapped the ankle and got crutches to assist the hiker out of the woods. Ranger Kabrehl reunited the subject with his mother and helped them to their vehicle.
Town of Hunter
Wilderness Rescue: On May 26 at 3:45 p.m., a hiker called about a fellow hiker with a lower leg injury on the Becker Hollow trail up Hunter Mountain. Four Forest Rangers hiked to the subject, assessed the injury, and splinted her ankle. Rangers helped the injured subject down the mountain where she was met by a friend. Resources were clear at 10:50 p.m.
Ranger Allwine helps hiker on Becker Hollow trail (photo attached)
Injured hiker on Becker Hollow trail (photo attached)
Hamlet of Livingston Manor
Burglary Charge: On May 26 at 11:30 p.m., Forest Rangers Schweider and Stratton investigated a complaint about a theft from a camper at Mongaup Pond Campground. Several valuable items were stolen from the camper and tents at the campground. Rangers recovered almost all of the items and turned over the case against a 14-year-old to family court.
Town of Wilmington
Wilderness Rescue: On May 27 at 2:50 p.m., Forest Ranger O’Connor received a call from DEC dispatch regarding two hikers on the Whiteface Landing trail, one of whom was experiencing muscle cramps and couldn’t continue hiking. Rangers O’Connor and Praczkajlo took a four-wheeler and six-wheeler to the Connery Pond trail. Dispatch provided an update to the Rangers that the subjects were headed toward the lean-to on the trail. Rangers Duchene and Lewis also responded to the lean-to. Rangers provided the hikers with food and water before helping the pair to the ATVs for the drive out of the woods. Resources were clear at 6:30 p.m.
Rescue on Whiteface Landing trail (photo attached)
Village of Ovid
Wildfire Investigation: On May 28 at 9:30 a.m., Forest Ranger Roberts responded to a complaint about rubbish burning that had spread to private property. Ranger Roberts issued a ticket for burning that endangers another’s property. DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement is investigating the waste burned and the responsible party could face further charges.
Town of Forestport
Wildland Fire: On May 28 at 2:30 p.m., Forest Rangers McCartney and Stone responded to a fire started by debris burning. Rangers worked with Barneveld Fire Department, Boonville Fire Department, Forestport Fire Department, Otter Lake Fire Department, Remsen Fire Department, and Woodgate Fire Department to get the 4.45-acre fire under control. By May 29 at 7:05 p.m., the fire had grown to 4.52 acres. While fully controlled, the fire is not yet completely contained. State Fire provided a thermal equipped drone to assist in heat detection along the fire perimeter.
Town of Greenfield
Firearms Seized: On May 28 at 2:30 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a camper reporting someone was target shooting into the water. Forest Ranger Lieutenant Ganswindt and Rangers Hess and Poulton responded. DEC’s Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigations Investigator Panipinto also responded. Following interviews, Forest Ranger Hess charged the 24-year-old from Halfmoon with misdemeanors of prohibited use of a firearm and reckless endangerment. Investigator Panipinto assisted with the arrest and secured an AK47 rifle and 9mm pistol. The subject was processed at the State Police barracks in Wilton. This is a prime example of how the Divisions of Forest Protection and Law Enforcement collaborate to fully utilize their respective areas of expertise.
Firearms seized in Greenfield (photo attached)
Illegal target shooting in Greenfield (photo attached)
Village of East Nassau
Wildland Fire: On May 28 at 3:45 p.m., Forest Rangers Jackson and Mitchell responded to a wildland fire that had started from burning brush. Rangers worked with multiple fire departments to get the 1.5-acre fire under control. Rangers issued a ticket for failure to remove flammable material while burning brush.
Wildland fire in Nassau (photo attached)
Town of Hunter
Wilderness Rescue: On May 28 at 5:35 p.m., AFR Staffa witnessed a 46-year-old from New Jersey fall and hurt his leg. AFR Staffa splinted the hiker’s ankle. Forest Ranger Gullen brought in a pair of crutches and helped the hiker out of the woods. Resources were clear at 6:55 p.m.
Town of Rochester
Wilderness Search: On May 28 at 9:20 p.m., Ulster County requested Forest Ranger assistance in the search for a lost hiker in the vicinity of Vernooy Falls. Cell phone coordinates place the 43-year-old a significant distance from the trail. At 11:45 p.m., Ranger Rushed located the subject in a swamp. The hiker from Napanoch had lost the trail and followed a drainage hoping it would lead to the falls, but instead got lost in a swamp. The hiker did not have food or water and her phone’s battery was nearly dead. Ranger Rusher provided snacks and water and helped the hiker bushwhack out to the trailhead. The hiker declined medical treatment. New York State Police provided a courtesy ride to her home.
Town of Ellisburg
Illegal Burning: On May 28 at 9:45 p.m., Central Dispatch received a complaint about a large bonfire at the South Colwell Pond boat launch in the Lakeview Wildlife Management Area. Forest Ranger Thomes determined the bonfire was started by a large family who planned to camp there for the night. Ranger Thomes issued a ticket for the illegal fire and informed the group camping is not allowed in the Lakeview Wildlife Management Area.
Town of Seward
Wildland Fire: On May 29 at 2:15 p.m., three Forest Rangers responded to a 5.7-acre fire threatening a home and shed. Rangers and multiple fire departments got the fire under control, protecting the structures. The homeowner was issued a ticket for illegal debris burning.
Village of Ellenville
Wilderness Search: On May 29 at 7:20 p.m., Forest Ranger Rusher and the Bloomington Fire Department responded to a report of two lost hikers in Roosa Gap State Forest. Cell phone coordinates placed the pair off trail, approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead. The couple from Astoria began the hike from the Cox Road trailhead at 3:30 p.m., but the pair was unfamiliar with the trails and did not have any means to navigate and got lost in the rocky terrain along the top of the trail. At 10:30 p.m., Ranger Rusher located the hikers, gave them headlamps and assisted them to their vehicle.
Town of Newcomb
Wilderness Search: On May 29 ay 8:52 p.m., Essex County requested Forest Ranger assistance with a lost hiker descending Santanoni Peak. Rangers Martin and Sabo reached the subject by 12:00 a.m., rehydrated him, and helped him back to the trailhead. The hiker had very little cell phone battery remaining and was not prepared to spend the night. Rangers remind anyone hiking to carry a map and compass, and not rely on a cell phone for anything but emergencies.
Town of Keene
Wilderness Rescue: On May 29 at 5:30 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch requested Forest Ranger assistance with a solo climber stranded on the trap dike slide on Mt. Colden. New York State Police Pilot Kotronis flew three Rangers to Avalanche Lake at the base of the trap dike. Rangers Mecus and Rooney climbed up to the 33-year-old from Pleasant Valley, gave him a helmet, placed him in a harness, built anchors, and lowered him approximately 150 feet into the dike. The Rangers then lowered the subject down another 50 feet to a location where he could walk. The Lake Colden Caretaker provided boat transportation following the rescue. Resources were clear at 11:30 p.m.
Video of the rescue is available on DEC’s website, https://www.dec.ny.gov/fs/programs/press/ForestRangers/ColdenTrapDike/
Rescue on trap dike slide (photo attached)
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC's Hike Smart NY, Adirondack 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: http://on.ny.gov/NYSForestRangerRoster