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 2016, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 356 search and rescue missions, extinguished 185 wildfires that burned a total of 4,191 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 is 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 Diana
Wildland Search: Forest Rangers continue to assist the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department in the ongoing search for 24-year-old Kenneth McCall, of Homer, near Jadwin Memorial State Forest. On June 26, five Rangers worked with two K-9 units from the NYS Federation of Search and Rescue Teams throughout the primary search area without success. DEC drones (unmanned aerial systems, or ‘UAS’) were used to intensely search areas of high probability from the air. To date, 11 Rangers have aided in the search over the last nine days.
Town of Lincklaen
Wildland Search:* On June 27, Forest Ranger Mike Burkholder assisted the Chenango County Sheriff’s Department to find a missing 20-year-old Lincklaen man last seen by his father the previous day. The man’s vehicle had been located on his father’s property near a pond where he was known to camp. Burkholder and Environmental Conservation Officer Brett Armstrong conducted preliminary searches and found the man injured in a wooded area not far from the pond. Burkholder prepared the man for evacuation to a roadside ambulance, which transported the subject to Upstate Hospital.
Town of North Hudson
Call for Assistance:* On June 27 at 11 a.m., the International Emergency Response Center (IERC) notified Ray Brook Dispatch of a personal locator beacon (PLB) activated by a U.S. Forest Service employee working in Essex County. PLBs use satellite communication to notify the IERC that the owner of the unit is in distress. Three Forest Rangers responded to the reported coordinates near Boreas Ponds, roughly 7.5 miles from a public highway. By 1:40 p.m., the Rangers found the Forest Service employee, who had gotten his vehicle stuck on a forest road but had no radio or cell phone service. Once the vehicle was freed, the employee was able to drive without further assistance.
Town of Webb
Wildland Rescue:* On June 28, Ray Brook Dispatch was notified by Herkimer County 911 that a hiker had suffered an ankle injury on Bald Mountain. A woman from South Carolina was near the summit and unable to proceed back to the trailhead. Rangers Bob Coscomb, Sarah Geesler, and Gary Miller assisted local fire and rescue to carry the woman off the mountain. Within two hours, she was transported to a waiting ambulance.
Town of Hunter
Wildland Search:* On June 29, Forest Ranger Christine Nelson was contacted by the mother of a 17-year-old Jericho man who was overdue from a hike on Indian Head Mountain. Through a cell phone discussion with the hiker, Nelson determined the subject was on Plateau Mountain, a considerable distance from his intended pick-up location. Nelson provided new directions to the hiker and met him as he was hiking out. Within five hours of the initial call, the teenager was safely out of the woods.
Town of Caroga
Rescue: On July 1, DEC Forest Rangers Michael Thompson and John Ploss responded to a 911 call reporting a man with a head injury on Ferris Lake Wild Forest near Nine Corners Lake. As both Rangers worked with local rescue personnel to hike in, they discovered that the 19-year-old Johnstown man had suffered a significant injury from a 10-foot fall. The teen was jumping from one boulder to the next when he lost his balance and fell. The seriousness of his injuries required a helicopter Med Flight to a local hospital for further care.
Town of Indian Lake
Rescue: On July 2, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Hamilton County 911 requesting Rangers to rescue a 22-year-old Oswego woman with a lower leg injury at the popular OK Slip Falls. Three Forest Rangers worked with local firefighters and emergency medical services to evacuate the woman. Once out of the woods, she was able to seek further treatment.
Town of Keene
Essex County Rescue: On July 2, eight DEC Forest Rangers were called to rescue a 33-year-old Fort Drum woman with a lower leg injury on Cascade Mountain Trail. A DEC Backcountry Steward had discovered the injured woman and determined that her extraction would require a significant number of rescuers due to steep, wet trail conditions. Once Rangers were on the scene, the complexities of the rescue required a helicopter extraction. Within two hours of the initial call, the subject was at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake.
Town of Jackson
Search:* On July 2, Washington County 911 requested DEC Forest Rangers to help locate two men last seen tubing on the Battenkill River. The 33 and 44-year-old Troy men had attempted to float down the raging river on inner tubes but found the river too rough. As they attempted to walk back to their vehicle, they became lost in Eldridge Swamp State Forest. Forest Ranger Jamie Laczko assisted Washington County Sheriff’s Deputies with locating the pair and eventually found the subjects walking along a road. Both men needed hydration but were in otherwise good health after a ride back to their car.
Town of Inlet
Bear Feeding Violation: On July 2, workers at DEC’s Limekiln Lake Campground asked Forest Rangers to evict campers that were allegedly feeding bears. Upon visiting the specific campsite, a Ranger discovered dog food dumped nearby. An Oswego husband and wife were evicted from the campsite and ticketed for incidental feeding of bear.
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety [ http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28708.html ] web page and Adirondack Backcountry Information [ http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7865.html ] web page for more information.