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 2018, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 346 search and rescue missions, extinguished 105 wildfires that burned a total of 845 acres, participated in 24 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 610 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 2,354 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.”
Town of Attica
Public Outreach: On Oct. 5, Forest Rangers John Kennedy, Justin Thaine, and Nathan Sprague instructed the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s (DOCCS) Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT) in the Basic Wildland Search Course. Participants took part in various aspects of effective searches for missing or lost persons by participating in a mock search and locating clues in a search block using specialized techniques.
Town of Hunter
Wilderness Recovery: On Oct. 6 at 4 p.m., Forest Rangers Mark Brand, Kenneth Gierloff, and Christine Nelson responded to a search for a missing 50-year-old male in Platte Clove. Based on information provided by a friend, the man was dropped off on Platte Clove Road and planned to hike down to the Plattekill Creek, camp, and then hike through to meet a friend at Saugerties Bridge on Becker Road. Using this information, Forest Rangers began a search of Plattekill Creek. At 7:33 p.m., Forest Rangers located the hiker deceased in the town of Hunter approximately 1.25 miles upstream from Becker Road. Forest Rangers Nelson and Gierloff secured the scene overnight. New York State Police (NYSP) and DEC’s Bureau of Environmental Crime Investigations (BECI) were notified. On Oct. 7 at 6 a.m., NYSP and Forest Rangers began investigating the scene and recovering the subject. A technical rope system was set up on Platte Clove Road and involved multiple high and steep angle rope systems over the course of approximately 700 feet of elevation gain. Seventeen Forest Rangers from Regions 3, 4, and 5 completed this mission. The man was successfully recovered and turned over to the coroner at approximately 5 p.m.
Town of Alma
Wilderness Search: On Oct. 8 at 12:15 a.m., the Alma Fire Department contacted Forest Ranger Justin Thaine reporting that the family of an 85-year-old man, who lives alone, was unable to contact or locate the subject at his home. Initially, State Police (NYSP) and the local fire department started searching for the subject with negative results. Forest Ranger Thaine responded to the scene and conducted a search of the property and surrounding properties. Additional resources arrived on scene, including five Rangers (one with a drone), NYSP K9s and aviation, and the local fire department and county search team volunteers. At about 10:30 a.m., search teams located the man over a mile from his home, suffering from dehydration and hypothermia. He was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where he passed away later that afternoon. All Rangers were cleared from the area by 3 p.m.
Town of North Elba
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 8 at 12:18 p.m., DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance from a married couple from Cornwall, Vermont, whose Australian Shepherd had become stranded on a ledge after falling off the side of the trail on Pitch Off Mountain. Forest Rangers Benjamin Baldwin, David Russell, and Scott van Laer responded to assist. The rangers arrived on scene at 1 p.m. and headed in to locate the hikers. Once the Rangers met up with the couple, they completed a 10-foot raise in a narrow crevice to rescue the uninjured dog. Rangers escorted the dog and hikers back to the trailhead. All units were cleared of the scene by 5:30 p.m.
Town of Keene
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 9 at 3:30 p.m., Essex County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch from a man reporting that his wife had fallen and injured her upper left leg while hiking Blueberry Mountain. Using coordinates attained through 911, Dispatch placed the couple’s location on the section of the Blueberry trail that goes over private land. Forest Rangers Scott van Laer, Scott Sabo, and Benjamin Baldwin responded to the Marcy Field trailhead where they were met by the Keene Fire Department and the Keene Valley Fire Department Backcountry Rescue Team. Forest Rangers and volunteers located the hiker and evaluated the injury before placing her in a litter to be carried out. Once back at the trailhead, the 58-year-old woman from Keene was transported by Keene EMS to a local hospital for treatment. All units were cleared from the scene at 5:22 p.m.
Town of Indian Lake
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 10 at 4:39 p.m., a call came into DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch from a group of hikers on the OK Slip Falls Trail. The caller reported that a 29-year-old female hiker in his group had an ankle injury and was on Northern Frontier Road. The caller requested assistance since the subject was unable to walk. Forest Ranger Arthur Perryman responded and picked up the hiker from Ontario, Canada, with his patrol vehicle and gave her a ride to the main gate where other members of the hiking party were waiting with their vehicle. The hiker refused medical attention and advised she would seek it on her own.
Town of Dewitt
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 10 at 5:23 p.m., while returning to headquarters from rope rescue training, Forest Ranger Mike Chappell was requested to respond to a search for an 80-year-old man who had walked from his residence into the forest and was reported lost by his family. Forest Ranger Chappell arrived on scene and, working with the Jamesville and Southwood fire departments, located the man in good health on nearby state park land. He was transported out of the woods by ATV and returned to his family.
Town of Brookhaven
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 13 at 12:40 a.m., Forest Ranger John Rusher received a request from the Race Director of the sixth annual Tesla-Hertz Run ultra-marathon to rescue a runner in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest. The race utilized a 10-mile loop on the State Forest, allowing runners to participate in runs of varying distances between 10 and 100 miles. Shortly after midnight, one of the 100-mile runners came across a 40-year-old male runner from Broad Brook, Connecticut, who required assistance for fatigue and mild hypothermia. The injured runner had completed 70 miles over 18 hours and needed help getting out of the woods. The second runner stayed with the fatigued runner until help could arrive. Forest Ranger Rusher arrived on scene at approximately 1:15 a.m., along with the Suffolk County Police Department and Rocky Point Fire Department EMS. Ranger Rusher found the injured runner and with assistance from the fellow runner, assisted him to an awaiting EMS unit for transport to a local hospital for medical attention.
Town of Clifton
St. Lawrence County
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 13 at 12:03 p.m., St. Lawrence County 911 contacted DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch regarding a lost hiker near Olmstead Pond in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area. The missing hiker was off the trail without a map. Forest Rangers Nathaniel Shea and William Benzel responded by boat on Cranberry Lake for faster access to cell coordinates provided by 911. The hiker was located and brought out by boat. All units were cleared of the scene at 5:25 p.m.
Town of Moreau
Wilderness Rescue: On Oct. 13 at 7:15 p.m., Warren County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch from a group of lost hikers. Coordinates provided by 911 indicated the group was lost in Moreau Lake State Park. The caller, a 54-year-old woman from Greenfield Center, also stated that she was late taking medications for a chronic condition. New York State Park Police were advised of the lost hikers and dispatched an officer to the scene. The hikers had no map, flashlights, or gear, and made a wrong turn in the dark before calling 911. After directing the hikers to call 911 for a second set of coordinates, voice contact was established at 9:06 p.m. Forest Ranger Joseph Hess located the hikers approximately 0.25 miles from both sets of 911 coordinates. The woman was assessed by Moreau EMS at the Spier Falls trailhead at 11:03 p.m. and released.
Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center
Outreach: On Oct. 14, attendees at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve’s 7th Annual Smokey Bear Day had the opportunity to meet Smokey Bear and Forest Ranger Chris DiCintio. The celebration included a commemoration of Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday earlier this year. Launched in 1944, the Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention Campaign is the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history.