DEC Forest Rangers - Week in Review

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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DEC Forest Rangers - Week in Review

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 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."

Towns of Cameron and Riverhead
Steuben and Suffolk Counties
Prescribed Fire:
On April 10, Forest Rangers and other DEC personnel completed an interagency prescribed burn of approximately 13 acres in the town of Cameron. The burn in Cameron Mills State Forest included tall, warm-season grasses. Burn units in this part of the region are unique. The fire initiates growth of native plant species and provides habitat improvement and diversity for the area's rattlesnake population, as well as other wildlife. Due to unregulated collection of the timber rattlesnake and destruction of their habitat, the snake's population greatly decreased and the species is designated as threatened in New York. Habitat improvements in conjunction with protection of the snakes under the state Environmental Conservation Law help restore those numbers.

In Suffolk County on April 10, 13, and 14, Forest Rangers and other DEC personnel conducted an interagency prescribed burn with Central Pine Barrens and Brookhaven National Lab on two pieces of land in Riverhead. Approximately 31 acres were burned.

Aerial view of large burned area from prescribed fire
Prescribed fire in Cameron

Dry brush burns and smoke rises above it during prescribed fire
Prescribed fire in Cameron

Statewide Wildfires: From April 11 to 17, Forest Rangers were called to 26 wildfires in 16 counties that burned nearly 1,000 acres of land. The largest fires were in the town of Deerpark in Orange County at 300 acres, and in the town of Richmondville where the fire totaled 241 acres and spanned Otsego and Schoharie counties. In both fires, Forest Rangers worked with New York State Police (NYSP) Aviation to perform dozens of bucket drops. The relationship between Rangers and NYSP pilots is invaluable. Their training and experience make it possible to successfully contain these fires. Rangers coordinated firefighting efforts with State agency partners including the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Office of Fire Prevention and Control, New York State Parks, Department of Transportation, Office of Emergency Management, dozens of local responders, volunteer firefighters, and other DEC staff trained in wildland fire suppression. Videos of some of the fires are available on DEC's website:

Round Hill Fire, Town of Blooming Grove

Shinhollow Fire, Town of Deerpark

DEC reminds New Yorkers the annual statewide ban prohibiting residential brush burning began March 16 and runs through May 14. The largest cause of spring brushfires in New York is residential burning. More information is available on the DEC website.

Large pine trees with smoke and the glow of a wildfire behind them
Wildfire in Deerpark

Ranger monitoring and extinguishing part of a wildfire in the woods
Wildfire in Richmondville

Nighttime photo of a house, and in the background the glow of a wildfire on the hill behind it
Wildfire in Round Hill

Rangers monitor and extinguish wildfire on a hill near a lake
Wildfire in Queensbury

Hamlet of Latham
Albany County
Better Communication:
On April 15, Forest Ranger Lieutenant Kerr made modifications to radio equipment to make it possible to communicate with the National Guard troops. The 42nd Aviation Brigade was on standby in case a Blackhawk helicopter was needed to help with bucket drops at one of the many wildland fires in the state. New York State Police and National Guard pilots use different types of radios. With modifications, the two can now communicate with each other and the Rangers in the helicopters to better coordinate wildland firefighting response efforts.

Ranger checking microphone on a radio communication helmet
Lt. Kerr testing radio equipment. Photo by National Guard Staff Sgt. Gunther

Ranger wears headset in helicopter to test radio communications
Lt. Kerr testing radio equipment. Photo by National Guard Staff Sgt. Gunther

Town of Cornwall
Orange County
Mrs. Berchielli's kindergarten class at Willow Avenue Elementary in Cornwall shared thank you cards with DEC Forest Rangers to show their appreciation of the Rangers and other firefighters who helped keep them safe over the last week while wildfires burned in their county.

Thank you card drawn with pencil by kindergartner
Kindergarten class thank you card

colorful thank you card drawn by kindergartner
Kindergarten class thank you card

Hamlet of Paul Smiths
Franklin County
Public Outreach:
On April 12, Forest Rangers Adams and Odell spoke to prospective Forest Rangers at Paul Smith's College career fair. Many current Rangers attended Paul Smith's. Rangers Adams and Odell talked about the requirements to become a Ranger and the skills and equipment used in the field.

Rangers stand at informational table at career fair
Rangers Odell and Adams at Paul Smith's College career fair

Town of Greenfield
Saratoga County
Wilderness Rescue:
On April 16 at 12:33 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch requested Forest Ranger assistance with two hikers lost in Daniel's Road State Forest. The hikers indicated they were on the trail, but became disoriented trying to find their way back to Daniels Road, where they had parked. Forest Ranger Lieutenant Ganswindt responded to the trailhead, used a pin of a subject's location, and directed the hikers to walk in the proper direction. Lt. Ganswindt met the hikers on the trail and walked the two Clifton Park residents back to the trailhead by 2:46 p.m. The pair said they planned to hike five miles, but their trackers indicated they actually walked 13. They were hot, tired, and had blisters. The hikers were not prepared for the hike, were unfamiliar with the trail system, and did not have a map.

Town of Keene
Essex County
Wilderness Rescue:
On April 16 at 2:30 p.m., Forest Rangers responded to a report of a fallen climber at the Spider's Web climbing area in Keene. At 3:37 p.m., six Rangers reached the subject and determined a hoist rescue was the best option. The hiker had fallen approximately 40 feet and had significant injuries. State Police Sergeant Beck piloted the helicopter with Ranger Balerno. Rangers on the ground stabilized the 23-year-old from Connecticut and moved him to a safe place for the rescue. Ranger Balerno lowered a litter so Rangers on the ground could secure the subject and hoist him into the helicopter. Sgt. Beck then flew the climber to Marcy Field and the patient was transferred to a LifeNet helicopter for transport to the hospital. Resources were clear at 5:06 p.m.

Video of the hoist mission is available at DEC's website.

Rangers and emeregency response personnel carry an injured hiker down a trail in the woods
Climber rescued in Keene

City of Beacon
Dutchess County
Public Outreach:
On April 16, Forest Ranger Cowart led a hiking safety and rescue presentation for a group of young hikers called the Beacon Navigators. Ranger Cowart reviewed the 10 essentials every hiker should have with the group before an outdoor adventure. After talking to them about search and rescue operations, Ranger Cowart took the group on a hike where they discussed trail navigation.

Ranger speaks to kids and shows them equpment during hiking safety demonstration
Ranger Cowart with the Beacon Navigators

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.