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Local forest rangers dealt with a fatality last week, when a hiker died from suspected heart problems hiking on Puffer Pond Trail in Johnsburg.

Numerous media outlets identified the man as former New York and Vermont education commissioner Richard Mills, who headed the New York Department of Education from 1995 to 2009.

Volunteers from the Siamese Ponds Trail Improvement Society were also integrally involved in the rescue.

Details of the rescue, and other regional forest ranger rescues of hikers and a hunter over the past few days, are below.

One hiker did not have a "light source" when his trip in the High Peaks Wilderness stretched into the evening, which is frankly unfathomable.

-- Don Lehman

Town of Johnsburg

Warren County

Recovery:At 5 p.m. on Nov. 1, a radio call came in from the DEC trail crew working on the East Sacandaga Trail. The crew had been notified that a man in his late 70s was having a possible cardiac arrest on the Puffer Pond Trail in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area. Due to inclement weather, helicopter support was not available. Six Forest Rangers, two trail crew members, and the Indian Lake Fire Department responded to the scene for a carry-out of the ill hiker. At 6:59 p.m., the hiker was reported deceased. The carry-out ended at the trailhead at 11 p.m. All units were clear of the scene by midnight.

Town of Keene

Essex County

Rescue:On Nov. 4 at 6:32 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a transferred call from Essex County 911. A 24-year-old man stated he was lost near Marcy Dam in the High Peaks Wilderness. The cellphone connection was poor, but dispatch gleaned enough information to send a Ranger toward Marcy Dam. The subject reported he had crossed over a river and was near a blue trail marker. The man had no light source and a low cell phone battery and did not feel comfortable continuing his hike in the dark. One Ranger responded, located the subject at 8:19 p.m., and assisted him back to his vehicle. No further assistance was needed.

Town of Schroon

Essex County

Rescue:On Nov. 5 at 5:46 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call about a 55-year-old male hunter lost near Crane Pond Road in the town of Schroon. Ray Brook Dispatch had the subject contact Essex County 911 directly to obtain and relay coordinates. With this information secured, Ranger Benjamin Baldwin responded to the subject’s reported location. The hunter had started a fire to keep warm and stated he had no injuries. Ranger Baldwin assisted the man back to his hunting party and was clear of the scene at 8:25 p.m.


New York Wildfire-Fighters Return Home:A team of 20 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Rangers, staff, and volunteers who helped battle and contain wildfires in Sonoma County, California, returned home last week. This is the third New York firefighting crew dispatched to fight wildfires in western states this year. When the New York crew arrived in California, 23 lives had been lost and hundreds of homes were destroyed or threatened by the worst wildfire in California history. By the time the crew departed, a total of 7,010 structures were destroyed and another 487 structures damaged. Currently, the fire is 95 percent contained and full containment is expected by the end of the month. The firefighting team is made up of DEC employees and volunteers, including State Forest Rangers that joined crews from other states to help battle the wildfires.



Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on

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