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Ranger Report: Rangers fight two fires, rescue an injured hiker

A forest ranger douses wildfire hot spots on Panther Mountain near Old Forge. (Provided photo — DEC)

Forest rangers with the state Department of Environmental Conservation fought two fires and rescued an injured hiker in the North Country in the past week.

Fire at Chub Lake

On June 22 at 4:45 p.m., DEC Region 6 forest rangers received reports of a wildland forest fire near Chub Lake in the town of Fowler, St. Lawrence County. Two rangers arrived at 6 p.m. to find approximately 4.5 acres of active flames and a widespread ground fire. With darkness approaching, the rangers ordered resources for the next day.

On the morning of June 23, the fire grew to 5 acres. Rangers constructed a fire line around the perimeter to prevent further growth and constructed a hose lay with laterals to suppress the fire. On June 24, rangers suppressed hot spots to eliminate any remaining ground fire. The fire remains in patrol status.

Hurt deep in wilderness

On June 22 at 6:20 p.m., DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a man reporting an injured hiker on the Sawtooth Mountain Range in the High Peaks Wilderness Area, in the town of Harrietstown. The caller said he received a distress signal from a friend’s personal locator device after a member of their hiking party suffered a non-weight-bearing ankle injury. The group provided coordinates that placed the hikers deep in the wilderness approximately 2.5 miles off the Pine Pond trail. The hikers had enough provisions for three days and reported that a physician was part of their group. Forest Ranger Lt. Chris Kostoss advised the hikers that the safest course of action would be to retrieve the injured hiker the next morning.

At 7 a.m., Forest Rangers Kevin Burns and Chris DiCintio headed to the New York State Police Aviation hangar in Lake Clear to prepare for a hoist operation to retrieve the 70-year-old injured hiker from Niagara. The helicopter lowered DiCintio down to the group of hikers, and the ranger splinted the man’s injured ankle before putting him in a harness and assisting him to a suitable hoist location. The helicopter transported the injured man to a local hospital for medical treatment and returned to the scene to retrieve DiCintio before returning to the hanger.

Fire near Old Forge

On June 24 at 1:40 p.m., Herkimer County 911 contacted DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch requesting assistance with a backcountry wildfire on Panther Mountain in the town of Webb, Herkimer County.

Four forest rangers responded to assist the Old Forge Fire Department with a 1-acre smoldering wildfire in the cliffs and rocks at the Panther Mountain overlook, burning in deep spruce duff 0.6 miles from a private road. Volunteer firefighters and rangers knocked down the fire, preventing its spread.

Over the following three days, seven rangers used a State Police Aviation helicopter with water bucket drops, used hand tools and set up a half-mile water hose pumping operation up 600 vertical feet in elevation to continually douse several areas of the fire with water. The fire is now in patrol status.

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