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DEC Contact: Jeff Wernick (518) 402-8000

February 20, 2024


Recent Statewide Forest Ranger Actions

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 2023, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 370 search and rescue missions, extinguished 146 wildfires covering nearly 1,400 acres, participated in 52 prescribed fires that served to rejuvenate more than 1,000 acres of land, and worked on cases that resulted in hundreds of tickets and arrests.   


“DEC Forest Rangers are among the nation’s most versatile first responders, utilizing their expert training and wide-ranging knowledge to protect natural resources while encouraging responsible stewardship among those who visit State lands and sites,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Their expertise in wildland fire suppression, technical rescue techniques, and law enforcement mean that Rangers are always prepared to successfully execute critical missions, here in New York State, as well as across the continent.” 


Town of North Elba 

Essex County 

Wilderness Rescue: On Feb. 13 at 12:20 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call regarding a hiker who slipped on the ice near the summit of Mount Jo and potentially dislocated his shoulder. At 1:20 p.m., Forest Rangers Duchene and O’Connor reached the 75-year-old from East Syracuse and determined the patient’s shoulder was dislocated. Attempts to pop the shoulder back in were unsuccessful, but the shoulder was in a better position to be stabilized. Rangers put a sling around his shoulder and arm and at 2 p.m., Rangers Lewis and Praczkajlo also arrived to help walk the subject down the mountain. They reached the trailhead at 4:45 p.m. 


Mount Jo rescue (photo attached)


Rangers O’Connor and Lewis at Mount Jo rescue (photo attached)


Rangers Duchene and O’Connor with subject at Mount Jo rescue (photo attached)


Town of Highland 

Sullivan County 

Public Outreach: On Feb. 15, Forest Rangers Franke, O’Connell, and Schweider met students from Barefoot University Forest School at Hickok Brook Multiple Use Area. Rangers helped the students build, ignite, and safely extinguish a fire. 


Ranger O'Connell demonstrates building a fire (photo attached)


Rangers with Barefoot University Forest School students (photo attached)


Town of Warrensburg 

Warren County 

Training: On Feb. 15 and 16, seven Forest Rangers conducted first responder first aid training for 34 Forest Rangers. All Rangers are certified wilderness first responders, a skill they utilize on search and rescue missions as well as wildland fires. The two-day training included a classroom lecture and hands-on simulated emergency scenarios.


First aid training and simulation (two photos attached)


Town of Indian Lake 

Hamilton County 

Snowmobile Accident: On Feb. 17 at 10:35 a.m., a group of four snowmobilers were traveling southbound on Indian Lake when the first rider in the group struck a 16-inch high-pressure crack. The rider and snowmobile travelled 73 feet in the air before crashing to the ice, rolling end over end, stopping 250 feet from the crack. An ice fisherman saw the accident and called 911. Forest Rangers Caswell, Lomnitzer, Milano, and Scott responded with Indian Lake Fire and EMS, and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. While responding, a rescue ATV broke through the ice. The two first responders self-rescued. Rangers used snowmobiles to bring the first responders to an ambulance at Indian Lake Islands campground and helped package the injured snowmobiler in a rescue toboggan. The 67-year-old from Indian Lake was transported four miles across the lake to a waiting ambulance. The subject was taken to the hospital with significant injuries. Rangers also helped recover the first responders’ ATV from the water. Resources were clear at 1:11 p.m.

Pressure crack on Indian Lake (photo attached)


Town of Webb 

Herkimer County 

Snowmobile Accident: On Feb. 17 at 12:29 p.m., Forest Rangers Evans, Lee, and Murphy responded to a call for a snowmobile through the ice on Stillwater Reservoir. The rider was out of the water when Rangers arrived, but the snowmobile was submerged. Rangers returned the following day to provide scene safety while a tow operator removed the snowmobile from the water. 


Snowmobile pulled from Stillwater Reservoir (photo attached)


Village of Speculator 

Hamilton County 

Law Enforcement: On Feb. 18 at 11 a.m., the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office called Forest Ranger Snye about a disabled vehicle in the Perkins Clearing Conservation Easement. Ranger Snye and Deputy Wilt located the truck in deep snow. While interviewing the driver, Ranger Snye learned the subject was part of a group of six people illegally camping for two days. Twelve tickets were issued to the six individuals for cutting down trees, camping in a non-designated area, and erecting a structure on State land. A tow company removed the truck from the snow. 


Truck stuck in the Perkins Clearing Conservation Easement (photo attached)


Illegal camping in the Perkins Clearing Conservation Easement (photo attached)


Illegal tree cutting in the Perkins Clearing Conservation Easement
(photo attached)


Town of Wilmington 

Essex County 

Wilderness Search: On Feb. 18 at 5:15 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Whiteface Ski Patrol about two teenagers who got off trail. Cell phone coordinates placed them west of the Little Whiteface Summit. Forest Rangers Adams, Duchene, and Lewis responded. At 6:34 p.m., Ranger Lewis learned the 15-year-old made it out, but the 17-year-old from Lake Placid was still in a drainage area and his cell phone battery died. At 8:30 p.m., Rangers and Ski Patrol located the subject and helped him out of the woods. Resources were clear at 9:32 p.m. 


Ranger Lewis during Whiteface search (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


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