ALBANY, NY — 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 the backcountry.
In 2017, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 346 search and rescue missions, extinguished 55 wildfires that burned a total of 191 acres, participated in 29 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 564 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in nearly 3,000 tickets or arrests.
“Across New York, DEC Forest Rangers are on the front lines helping people safely enjoy the great outdoors,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Their knowledge of first aid, land navigation, and technical rescue techniques are critical to the success of their missions, which take them from remote wilderness areas with rugged mountainous peaks, to white-water rivers, and throughout our vast forested areas statewide.”
Recent missions carried out by DEC Forest Rangers include:
Town of Colton
St. Lawrence County
Search: On Aug. 16 at 8:18 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance in locating a 61-year-old female hiker from Los Angeles, CA, who had been missing since early Thursday afternoon. The subject was last seen heading into the woods at 3:15 p.m. Three Rangers were dispatched to Lake Marion near the camp to look for the subject. Search operations continued through the night. On Aug. 17, four additional Rangers joined the search effort. At 8:51 a.m., the subject was spotted from the summit of Iron Mountain swimming across Iron Pond toward Lake Marion. A canoe was sent out to retrieve her. The subject was cleared by EMS and released to her family at 10 a.m. The incident concluded at 11:45 a.m.
Military Training exercise: On Aug. 15 and 16, Forest Rangers participated in a full-scale, multi-agency exercise with the U.S. Army at Fort Drum to assess emergency response capabilities. This year’s scenario was for a lost/missing person on Fort Drum. Members of both DEC’s Division of Forest Protection and Division of Law Enforcement participated. At the onset of the training, a multi-agency incident command post was established. Forest Rangers developed plans and tracked resources. Assignments for ground crews were formulated and the team successfully located the missing individual 1.5 miles from his vehicle. Army medivac units were deployed to bring the subject out of the woods. The exercise served to further strengthen relations and cooperation among the participating agencies.
Southern Tier & Finger Lakes Flooding
Rescue: Due to excessive rains, flooding occurred in multiple locations in New York’s Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions last week. In response, DEC deployed two swiftwater teams that included four airboats, kayaks/rafts, and 20 Forest Rangers trained in water rescues. On Aug. 14, the teams conducted multiple rescues in the town of Conklin while assisting local authorities. On Aug. 16, the teams surveyed the Susquehanna River looking for hazards and infrastructure damage. On Aug. 17, an airboat team assisted the New York State Department of Transportation with a bridge inspection in the town of Conklin. The bridge over Snake Creek was reportedly damaged by flood water.
Flood recovery effort: On Aug. 14, the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) activated the State Incident Management Team to respond to flooding in the Finger Lakes region. This multi-agency team helps provide additional command and control during large-scale emergency operations. Four Forest Rangers were assigned to the team in a variety of roles, including deputy incident commander, planning section chief, situation unit leader, and logistics section chief. The team is helping to manage the recovery operations in Seneca County.
Town of Indian Lake
Rescue: On Aug. 16 at 10:45 a.m., Ranger Bruce Lomnitzer was on water patrol on the Indian River when he observed a 63-year-old male subject from Bethesda, MD, struggling after he capsized his boat on the Indian River. The subject unsuccessfully tried to swim ashore in Class 3 rapids. Ranger Lomnitzer retrieved subject and brought him to shore before going after the subject ‘s gear and boat, which the Ranger successfully retrieved. The subject did not require medical attention and the incident concluded around 11 a.m.
Town of North Elba
Rescue: On Aug. 16 at 2:29 p.m., DEC Dispatch received a request for assistance for a 59-year-old male from Brandon, Vt., who sustained a knee injury below Wright Peak on the Algonquin Trail. The knee injury was non-ambulatory. Forest Rangers were assembled for a rescue mission and New York State Police Aviation was contacted for a possible hoist mission to retrieve the subject. Rangers assembled at the Lake Placid Airport, where the helicopter met them for the hoist operation. One Ranger was inserted by helicopter and reached the subject at 3:30 p.m. The subject was hoisted out at 3:40 p.m., and lifted to AMC Saranac Lake for treatment. The incident concluded by 4 p.m.
Town of Lake George
Search: On Aug. 17 at 1:50 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch was contacted by the Glen Island Caretaker. The caretaker had received a broken cell call advising that a 5-year-old female from Barton was separated from her family near the summit of Black Mountain. Forest Rangers were dispatched to Black Mountain and Black Mountain Point. One Ranger was transported by Lake George Park Commission to Black Mountain Point and searched the mountain from the west side. A second Ranger proceeded up the mountain from the east side. Three additional Rangers were inserted at the summit by helicopter and worked their way down. An additional Ranger proceeded up the Pike Brook Road Trail. During the search, the subject was located in good health at 3:34 p.m. near the shoreline of Black Mountain Point. The subject advised the Rangers that she became separated from her siblings and continued downhill. She was located in good condition, but wet and cold from recent rains. She was warmed up, fed, and rehydrated prior to her family’s arrival. No medical attention was required and the subject was released to her family at 4:47 p.m. The incident concluded at 5:15 p.m.
Town of Long Lake
Bear issues: In response to reports of increased black bear activity earlier in the week, Forest Ranger Jim Waters was assigned to patrol DEC’s Golden Beach Campground on Raquette Lake. During the early morning hours of Aug. 17, Ranger Waters observed a large bear at the campground. Ranger Waters successfully hazed the bear to discourage it from foraging for food. The bear quickly left the campground. Forest Ranger patrols continue to be assigned to Golden Beach Campground to monitor bear activity. Forest Rangers are also working closely with campground staff to ensure all campers and day use visitors are storing food securely and out of reach of all wildlife and that garbage is disposed of properly.
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety (http://www.dec.ny.gov/