Fighting fires out west and in Adirondacks, plus rescues

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers, staff and volunteers pose while fighting wildfires in South Dakota. (Provided photo — DEC)

In addition to searches, rescues and fires in the Adirondack Park, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation personnel once again have been far away battling wildfires that continue to ravage western states.

Fighting wildfires

On Oct. 16, a third team of DEC forest rangers, staff and volunteers returned home after being deployed to help battle and contain wildfires raging in western states. That team includes rangers from Essex and Franklin counties.

A New York state wildland firefighter walks through a burning area of South Dakota. (Provided photo — DEC)

A fourth crew left on Oct. 17 for deployment from the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center in Denver.

The third team began their assignment on Sept. 30. The crew includes a forest ranger crew boss and nine firefighters from the ranks of forest rangers and other DEC programs. The returning New York crew joined federal, state and local fire agencies battling wildfires in Gibbons, South Dakota, and was tasked with securing control lines.

Three DEC forest rangers also assisted in fighting fires in California and Colorado. One ranger was assigned to the August Complex Fire in California while another served as task force leader for the Castle Fire in California. A third ranger served as ordering manager for the Williams Fork Fire in Colorado.

The returning firefighters are as follows:

¯ Robert Praczkajlo, forest ranger, crew boss, Essex and Franklin counties

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers, staff and volunteers fight a wildfire at night in South Dakota. (Provided photo — DEC)

¯ Brendan Aschmutat, DEC Division of Fish and Wildlife, Saratoga County

¯ Aimee Bills, forest ranger, Herkimer and Oneida counties

¯ Michael Giocondo, forester, Lewis County

¯ Joseph Hess, forest ranger, Saratoga County

¯ Captain Jaime Laczko, forest ranger, DEC Central Office

¯ David Nally, forest ranger, Fulton County

¯ Hannah O’Connor, forest ranger, Warren County

¯ Jeremy Oldroyd, forest ranger, Broome and Chenango counties

¯ Kyle Olson, DEC Division of Fish and Wildlife, Tompkins County

¯ John Rusher, forest ranger, Ulster County

¯ Neilson Snye, DEC Division of Operations, Franklin County

¯ Daniel Wehn, DEC Division of Environmental Remediation, Fulton County

10 acres burn

On Sunday, Oct. 18, DEC’s Ray Brook dispatch was notified by Hamilton County 911 of a fire on Dunham Mountain in the Silver Lake Wilderness Area in the Hamilton County town of Wells.

Reports placed the fire on the side of the remote mountain, which has no easy access. The reports also indicated the fire was rapidly spreading and moving vertically from the ground up into the trees.

Forest Ranger Lt. David Kallen and rangers Melissa Milano, Ian Kerr and Michael Thompson responded. Over the course of several days, more than a dozen rangers, as well as a logistical support long line utility flight courtesy of New York State Police Aviation, worked to suppress and put out the fire.

After several days, the fire was placed in patrol status, totaling approximately 10 acres burned. Rangers traced the fire’s ignition back to an unattended campfire.

Lost hunter

On Thursday, Oct. 22 at 7:08 p.m., Lewis County 911 transferred a call reporting a lost hunter in the town of Watson to DEC’s Ray Brook dispatch. The hunter’s friend contacted 911 reporting that his friend was disoriented and could not be reached by radio.

Forest Rangers Luke Evans, Howard Thomes and Patrick Lee responded to assist. Evans was first on scene and went into the woods, along with a Lewis County deputy sheriff and the reporting party. Evans advised the responders he had located the lost hunter at 9:11 p.m. The 59-year-old hunter from Queensbury was escorted out of the woods to his vehicle, and the rangers were cleared from the scene.

Disoriented hiker

On Friday, Oct. 23 at 11:30 a.m., DEC’s Ray Brook dispatch received a request for assistance for a 40-year-old woman from Schenectady who became disoriented while hiking Cat Mountain in the Warren County town of Bolton. Coordinates provided by Warren County 911 placed her in the area of Edgecomb Pond.

Forest Ranger Lt. Nancy Ganswindt responded to assist, arrived on scene at noon and headed in on the trail. Using the coordinates provided, Ganswindt located the hiker at 12:40 p.m. and escorted her back to the trailhead. The incident concluded at 1:10 p.m.

Hiker hurts ankle

On Saturday, Oct. 24 at 4:50 p.m., DEC’s Ray Brook dispatch received a call reporting a hiker who hurt an ankle while hiking on Peaked Mountain in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area in the Warren County town of Johnsburg. The injured hiker was continuing to walk out, but the caller stated they were having difficulty and needed forest ranger assistance.

Forest Rangers Charles Kabrehl, Evan Donegan and Logan Quinn responded to assist. At 6:30 p.m., Kabrehl located the 38-year-old hiker from Ballston Spa near the lake and advised they would continue walking out. At 7:52 p.m., the group was back at the trailhead and the injured hiker stated they would seek additional medical attention on their own.

Lost hunter found

On Saturday, Oct. 24 at 5:31 p.m., Hamilton County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook dispatch reporting a missing 68-year-old hunter from South Glens Falls in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area in the town of Indian Lake.

Forest Rangers Michael Thompson, Lincoln Hanno, John Gullen, Scott Murphy, Evan Donegan and Logan Quinn responded to the hunting party’s camp to begin search efforts.

At 8:30 p.m., rangers were on scene and broke into groups of two for a Type II search by voice along the route of the hunter’s last known location. The hunter responded to a gunshot with one of his own at 1:30 a.m. The hunter was located by rangers at 1:46 a.m., in good health and had built a fire to stay warm. Rangers walked him back the 2 miles to the hunting party’s rowboat and crossed the lake back to camp. Rangers were brought out by other camp members by UTV and were cleared of the scene at 5:15 a.m.

Another lost hunter found

On Sunday, Oct. 25 at 7:23 p.m., Franklin County 911 transferred a call to DEC’s Ray Brook dispatch reporting a lost hunter who left Coreys Road in the Franklin County town of Harrietstown, although 911 coordinates placed the subject near the northern end of Long Lake.

Forest Rangers David Russell and Jenifer Temple responded by boat to the hunter’s coordinates, where they sounded shots to make contact with the hunter without success.

At 11:34 p.m., Franklin County 911 received another call from the 32-year-old hunter from Peru, New York, with coordinates still placing him near Long Lake. Using his cellphone, the hunter provided coordinates that placed him closer to Rock Pond off Coreys Road. Forest Ranger Chris DiCintio swept the shore of Rock Pond and interviewed members of the hunting party who advised that their lost party member was supposed to go from Pickerel Pond to Rock Pond.

Ranger DiCintio searched the surrounding hills in the area of Rock Pond until he was joined by four additional forest rangers at first light. At 7:45 a.m., Forest Ranger Megan LaPierre advised she had located the hunter north of Rock Pond in good condition and they were walking back to the trailhead. All units were cleared of the scene at 9:15 a.m.


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