Forest Ranger searches & rescues

The following are the state Department of Environmental Conservation forest ranger highlights for the week of April 1 to April 7

Wildfire prevention


High temperatures, low relative humidity, and strong winds across the southern and eastern parts of the state last week led to favorable conditions for the creation of wildfires, and forest rangers remained busy responding to 22 wildland fires across the state. The fires resulted in 72.6 acres burned. Nine of the fires were caused by strong winds downing powerlines and causing dry grass to burn, and two fires were sparked by embers blown from structure fires into adjacent woodlands. Eight of these fires were the result of people unlawfully burning debris in violation of the statewide burn ban.

Residential across the state: New York prohibits residential burning during the high-risk fire season to reduce wildfires and protect people, property, and natural resources. The ban has been extremely effective in reducing the number of wildfires, and DEC is encouraging New Yorkers to put safety first. Historically, open burning of debris is the largest single cause of spring wildfires in New York State. When temperatures are warmer and the past fall’s debris, dead grass, and leaves dry out, wildfires can start and spread easily and be further fueled by winds and a lack of green vegetation.

Town of Trenton

Oneida County

Wildfire: On April 3 at 4:30 p.m., while on routine patrol, Ranger Robert Coscomb observed a large plume of smoke rising in the distance. A fully involved structure fire had spread to adjacent fields south of County Highway 365.

On scene, Coscomb and three volunteer fire departments extinguished the six-acre wildfire while other departments battled the structure fire. The fire was believed to have originated from an outdoor wood boiler.

The fire destroyed a house, barn, and several outbuildings.

The 94-year-old landowner was rescued from his dwelling but subsequently passed away.

Town of Schuylerville

Saratoga County

Wildfire: On April 3 at 2:50 p.m., Saratoga County requested forest ranger assistance with a wildland fire near Lock 5 on Route 4 in the town of Schuylerville.

Forest Rangers Lt. John Solan and Michael Bodnar responded and coordinated with local volunteer firefighters to contain and extinguish the six-acre fire that had burned a grass field but threatened one structure.

By 6 p.m., personnel contained the fire but had to respond to another fast-moving fire on East Lake Road in Cossayuna, Washington County. Solan and Bodnar were joined by Rangers Logan Quinn and Nancy Ganswindt and local volunteer firefighters to contain the fire, which was six acres.

The fire was monitored overnight by Rangers Joseph Hess and Anthony Goetke due to the high concentration of dry debris and a nearby residence. Personnel completed mop-up operations the next morning.

Town of Danby

Tompkins County

Wildfire: On April 3, Tompkins County 911 notified forest rangers of a wildfire off Larue Road. Ranger Joan Oldroyd responded, arrived on scene at 12:35 p.m., and assisted the Danby and West Danby Fire Departments with mop up of the .5-acre fire. After a thorough patrol of the area, the fire was declared out.

Residential debris burning that escaped and burned into light hardwood debris was to blame. Environmental Conservation Police Officer Osman Eisenburg assisted with enforcement efforts.

Town of Blenheim

Schoharie County

Wildland Fire: On April 3 at approximately 4:20 p.m., Central Dispatch received a call from Schoharie County 911 requesting forest ranger assistance with a wildland fire on Cole Hollow Road in the town of Blenheim.

The fire had started in an abandoned building and spread to an additional building on the property before spotting into the adjoining woods. Fire departments from Blenheim, West Fulton, Jefferson, Middleburgh, Conesville, Cobleskill, and Grand Gorge responded along with state fire, Schoharie County SAR, Middleburgh EMS, County Medic, state police, and the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Department, in addition to four forest rangers. The crew was able to save one structure when the fire came within 10 feet. Fire companies secured a line around the 17.5-acre fire while forest rangers continued putting out hot spots until 10 p.m.

On April 4, the fire was declared out.

Town of Barton

Tioga County

Wildfire: On April 3, Ranger Joan Oldroyd was notified by Tioga County Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Simmons of a three-acre wildfire spreading near Talmadge Hill and Ellis Creek roads.

Oldroyd arrived on scene at 4:25 p.m., and Waverly Fire Department completed the mop-up. Caused by a downed power line, the fire burned approximately three acres of heavy grass.

Town of Blooming Grove

Orange County

Wildfire: On April 4 around 3:15 p.m., forest rangers were requested by the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to respond to a wildland fire in Schunnemunk Mountain State Park.

The fire resulted from an escaped campfire near the Mountain Lodge residential community. Strong winds pushed the fire up the mountain into a mix of scrub vegetation and hardwood litter, eastward away from the community. Twelve forest rangers, state parks personnel, an ECO, and approximately 200 members from local fire companies responded to the fire, which was highly visible from the state Thruway.

Fire companies included Coldenham, Maybrook, Cornwall on Hudson, Kiryas Joel, Winona, Goshen, Cronomer Valley, and Woodbury. As a result of the quick response by personnel, the fire was contained to 20.4 acres by nightfall. No nearby structures or residences were threatened.

Town of Norway

Herkimer County

Wildland Search: On April 5 at 10 a.m., rangers Lt. Scott Murphy, Robert Piersma, Charles Richardson, and Scott Jackson assisted the state police with a fugitive search in the town of Norway.

Herkimer County 911 reported to Murphy that a 24-year-old male had fled from police into the woods when approached regarding an attempted assault on his father.

Through snow-covered and rough terrain, rangers led efforts while ECO Corey Schoonover and K9 Jake assisted. The subject was found in a nearby dwelling and taken into custody.

Town of St. Armand

Essex County

Wildland Rescue: On April 7 at 4 p.m., DEC’s Ray Brook dispatch received a call from Franklin County 911 reporting a 30-year-old female from Baldwinsville near the summit of Baker Mountain. The subject had an unstable ankle injury.

Four forest rangers responded and reached the injured hiker by 5 p.m.

After assessing the injury and splinting the ankle, rangers assisted the subject down the trail about a quarter of a mile. She was packaged into a rescue litter and carried to the trailhead.

By 6:23 p.m., the woman was transferred to the Saranac Lake Rescue squad and transported to the Adirondack Medical Center for follow-up care.

Town of Harmony

Chautauqua County

Wildfire: On April 7 at noon, Ranger Zachary Robitaille responded to a call from Chautauqua County dispatch regarding a grass fire on Weeks Road. The fire was growing out of control.

Robitaille was on scene by 12:30 p.m., and spoke with the Panama fire chief who stated that the grass ignited from a burning garbage pile behind a garage. Panama Fire Department, Bear Lake Fire Department, and Clymer Fire Department extinguished the fire.

Robitaille interviewed the resident, who reported that they burn their winter garbage behind the garage in the spring. The resident stated that the fire from the garbage pile spread into the grass.

Robitaille cold trailed the area of the fire and declared it out. Three minor injuries were reported.

Town of Chautauqua

Chautauqua County

Search Training: Last week, rangers Robitaille and Nathan Sprague conducted monthly training with the Chautauqua Area Search Team at the Chautauqua Gorge State Forest.

The group utilized land navigation skills with maps, compasses, and GPS to traverse a land navigation course. Participants then checked themselves against pre-established points for accuracy and time to complete the course.