Radio -equipped Chevy Truck and District Ranger Solon Hyde

FFinal Update: 04/11/2018 @ 1600

1926-2-map of fire districts-1926.jpg - 74098 BytesBy the end of 1926, the Commission's area of fire control responsibility grew in leaps and bounds. In addition to the original five districts and the new one on Long Island, responsibility extended to the Tug Hill area west of the Black River in Lewis County and Oneida Counties, another area east of the Hudson River and south of the Adirondacks, another south of the Catskills to the New Jersey border and Pennsylvania line and still another in the southwestern part of the State.

In each of these new districts, district rangers were hired to represent the Commission and oversee the activities of the locally appointed fire wardens . In some cases, it would be years before permanent forest rangers were appointed. Once appointments took place, they were not in the numbers of rangers or of fire towers that existed at the time in the Adirondacks and Catskills. The staffing would average about one forest ranger per county who would rely heavily on fire wardens in time of high fire danger. This variation in staffing would carry through to the present times.

The Commission Is Reorganized and Renamed To Be Known As The Conservation Department

1927 brought more changes. The Conservation Commission was renamed the Conservation Department. With this new name came a division of responsibilities. Previously, nearly all of the field work and oversight was the responsibility of the District Forest Rangers. This change saw the creation three bureaus within the Division of Lands and Forests. Forester Kinnie Williams was appointed to the position of Superintendent of Forest Fire Control, William D. Mulholland to Recreational Development and A. F. Amadon to the Bureau of Reforestation.

In an effort to consolidate state government, two new divisions, the Division of Parks and the Division of Water Power and Control were added. The new Division of Parks brought together a variety of organizations, councils and commissions under one head and would remain a part of the Conservation Department for another forty years, until 1968 when it became the Office of Parks and Recreation.

Along with these changes, new and distinctive badges were issued to every district ranger, forest ranger, forest fire observer and railroad fire inspector.

District Forest Ranger Badge worn from 1947 to 1970 - A Paul Hartmann Photo Forest Range Badge worn from 1926 to 1970 - A Paul Hartmann Photo Forest Fire Observer Badge worn from 1926 to 1970 - A Paul Hartmann Photo Chief Railroad Fire Inspector Badge worn from 1926 to 1947 - A Paul Hartmann Photo
Fire Wardens Are Issued Distinctive Badges

The 1929 fire warden badge. - A Paul Hartmann Photo

In 1928 the Department began issuing fire warden badges on an annual basis, similar to this 1929 example. These were issued until 1948 when a new style of badge was decided upon.
The Department Begins Development of a Fleet of Fire Fighting Vehicles
The Saranac District 1929 Larrabee truck designed specifically for fighting forest fires

The latter part of the 20's brought new improvements in vehicles for the carrying of fire fighting equipment. The Department purchased several heavy duty Larrabee pickup trucks for this purpose.

Dist. Ranger E.C. Roberts and his 1929 Larrabee truck designed specifically for fighting forest fires

Larrabee was a company in Binghamton who built heavy duty trucks from pickups to large fire trucks. Pictured below are photos of the Saranac Lake and Northville units.
A 1929 Larrabee truck designed specifically for fighting forest fires on long island.

The truck shown in these two pictures is an experimental design developed in 1929 in an effort to cope with peculiar conditions existing on Long Island where fires are excessively large in number and spread with great rapidity over large areas of oak and pine brush lands. It is designed for high speed and heavy loads.

A 1929 Larrabee truck designed specifically for fighting forest fires on long island.

It was on a Larrabee chassis and had a 300 gallon water tank, six knapsack pumps, as they were called back then, and tools for 25 men. The pump was driven by a power take-off from the transmission and will pump water directly from the tank through a 1/2 inch hose or may be used for pumping a 1/2 inch stream from a larger supply of water. Chief District Ranger William O'Brien is shown filling a knapsack pump.
Forest Ranger Coverage Expands to New Areas in the State

By 1930 there were twelve districts in all. Districts 1 through 6, those in the central Adirondacks and Catskills, had in their employ: 6 district rangers, 66 forest rangers, 58 forest fire observers and 200 Fire Wardens.

The remaining districts had 6 district rangers, 13 forest rangers, 10 forest fire observers and 2000 fire wardens. In these districts, it was not uncommon for fire wardens to issue burning permits and patrol for fire during dry periods without any appreciable compensation. Future staffing in these districts was not in the same numbers as in the Adirondacks and Catskills, averaging about one forest ranger position per county. Therefore, these districts relied heavily on fire wardens during times of high fire danger.

The First Aircraft Purchased for Forest Fire Detection and Control
1931-The first aircraft used by the forest ranger force for spotting forest fires.

In 1931 the Department entered the aviation age with the purchase of a Fleet Biplane to be used for forest fire patrol and observation. Pilot Albert Leo-Wolf is seen climbing into the plane in preparation for take-off.
Forest Rangers Demonstrate Their Equipment and Capabilities to Then Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt
1932 - Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt and forest rangers in front of a newly acquired fire truck

In 1932 the forest ranger force demonstrated some of its fire control techniques and exhibited several vehicles for then Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. Pictured here are photos of that occasion.

That same year the ranger force had a noticeable change in their uniforms. Most notable was probably the change from the campaign-style hat to the tan colored Stetson and the addition of a heavy winter coat.

Forest rangers pictured with Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt demonstrating the pumping capabilities of a newly acquired vehicle.
1932 - Forest Ranger  trucks On display at Albany.

The Pine Tree Shoulder Insignia is Added to the Uniform
The Forest Ranger shoulder insignia issued in 1932.

As a part of the recent changes to the forest ranger uniform, a shoulder patch was authorized and issued. This would be the official forest ranger insignia until 1947 when the Division of Lands and Forests would undergo a major reorganization.
The Civilian Conservation Corps Plays a Significant Role in All Department Program Areas During the 1930's

The CCC's erecting a fire tower on Jersey Hill in 1935.

The Emergency Conservation Work Act was signed into law on March 31, 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, marking the birth of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Corps was created to provide relief from the high unemployment stemming from the Great Depression and secondly, to carry out a broad natural resource conservation program on national, state and municipal lands.

There were over 100 CCC Camps in New York between 1933 and 1942, when the Corps was dismantled. Some of these camps worked on a variety of State Conservation Department lands completing numerous and valuable projects. On State Reforestation lands, mostly in the Southern Tier and Hudson Valley, they erected 20 fire towers. These fire towers, like this one on Jersey Hill in Allegany County, were not necessarily an extension of the Department's existing fire tower net, but rather, they were strategically placed to keep a vigil over large holding of State owned lands.

1934 - A waterhole built by the CCC's for use by forest rangers when combating forest fires in the area.

Another of their tasks was to construct hundreds of stone re-enforced water holes like this one in the Southern Tier. These were valuable water sources used by forest rangers in the event of fire.

A Truck Trail built by the CCC's on a Reforestation Area in Allegany County

The CCC's constructed hundreds of miles of "truck trails" on State Conservation Department lands by upgrading abandon town roads, upgrading abandon railroad beds and in some cases creating new roads where none existed before. These truck trails provided much needed access to State Reforestation areas and remote areas in New York's Forest Preserve.

1938-The  Rangers and CCC's  building a pumping unit for a forest ranger truck at the Saranac Inn Ranger Barracks and Shop.

Still other camps, especially in the Adirondacks, were established and maintained to fight forest fires and to aid in the construction of fire fighting equipment and vehicles for the forest ranger force.
Interior Forest Ranger Headquarters Were Established to Provide Aid and Assistance
to the Public in the Remote Areas of the Adirondacks
1951-Shattuck Clearing Interior Station - c.1951 - A  NYSDEC Photo.jpg - 88918 Bytes

From the teens to the sixties the Commission and later the Department, maintained and staffed three interior ranger stations at Shattuck Clearing, Lake Colden and West Canada Lakes.
In later years there were other interior facilities like Cedar Lakes, John's Brook and Marcy Dam that were staffed seasonally by recreation personnel. Their functions included light trail and leanto maintenance and providing aid and information to the public. Because of their locations and the nature of their work, they were often called "rangers."

Pictured here is the cabin at Shattuck Clearing as it appeared in 1951. The first to serve at Shattuck was Forest Ranger Arthur Duane (1915 to 1916) and the last was Forest Ranger David Ames (1964). Following that year Shattuck was no longer staffed by forest rangers.

1930s- The Lake Colden Ranger Station.

Here depicted is the Lake Colden Ranger Station at some point in the late 1930's. The first to serve here was Forest Ranger Clint West (1921 to 1937) and the last was Forest Ranger Chet Rafferty (1949 to 1967).

1929-West Canada Lakes Interior Ranger Station courtesy of Don Wharton

West Canada Lakes Ranger Station was the last to be built in 1929 and is pictured here. That same year Forest Ranger Ernie Ovitt began service at West Canada which ended with his retirement in 1948.

1965 Photo of West Canada Lakes Ranger Station courtesy of retired Forest Ranger Gary Lee

In 1950 the old cabin was replaced with the one pictured in this 1965 photo.

1965 Photo of West Canada Lakes Ranger Station courtesy of retired Forest Ranger Gary Lee

The last to serve at West Canada was Forest Ranger Gary Lee and his wife Karen who were stationed there until July 15, 1966.

Living in such a remote area presented many challenges. One such, shown here, would be doing the laundry without the conveniences of electricity or running water.

Following the departure of the forest rangers from these interior headquarters, they were subsequently staffed by part-time forest recreation personnel whose function was to educate and aid the public.

Photo of Postcard by Gary McChesney courtesy of retired Forest Ranger Gary Lee.

In the 1980's the West Canada Lake Ranger HQ became a major bone of contention. It was slated for removal because the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan's philosophical interpretation of "wilderness" deemed it a "non-conforming use." Then, on a cold day in January 1987 DEC employees flew in by helicopter and burned the structure. This action so enraged the local rangers that one produced and distributed this postcard as a form of protest.
An Early Search and Rescue Operation For a Downed Aircraft in the Western Adirondacks
Photo courtesy of the family of District Ranger Ernest Blue

Search and rescue was not a formal part of the ranger's duties but because of their knowledge of the wooded and remote areas of the state, they were often called upon when emergencies arose. Such was the case on Friday, December 29, 1934 when American Airlines Condor 166, similar to that pictured here, went down in a snowstorm in the southwestern Adirondacks.

The plane, bound from Syracuse to Albany with four on board, encountered heavy snow and icing from a storm that swept down from the north. The pilot was able to radio the airport at Albany of their emergency and approximate location before the crash, but had no indication that the message got through.


Miraculously, but unbeknown to searchers, all four people on board survived the crash with only minor injuries. An air search, involving planes from commercial airlines, the Army Air Corps and National Guard, ensued on Saturday but by dark had proved unsuccessful.

Finally, late Sunday, 45 hours after the crash, Condor 166 was located by a search plane. While one plane and then another circled the crash site, two search parties entered the woods in sub-zero temperatures with 20 inches of snow on the ground. Heading toward the circling planes they hoped to reach the survivors. But when the second plane finally broke off and returned to the airport the search parties lost their point of reference and backtracked to the road.

Photo courtesy of the family of District Ranger Ernest Blue

On Monday morning, a group of forest rangers and volunteers under the direction of District Ranger Ernest Blue, reached the site finding all four safe but suffering from the cold. They had built a hut out of airplane parts, had a small fire going and did have some supplies that were dropped to them the previous day. By Monday afternoon, all were safely out of the woods after spending almost three days on the side of Wilder Mountain, just three miles north of Morehouseville on State Route 8. The wreckage still remains on Wilder Mountain. Pictured here is a portion of the ill-fated aircraft.

More can be learned about this emergency and many other, involving the State's forest rangers in a book entitled " At The Mercy of the Mountains" by Peter Bronski.

Fifty Years of Conservation in New York State Celebrated at Lake Placid

1935 Celebration of Fify Years of Conservation at Lake Placid

1935 marked 50 years of Conservation in New York State. The celebration took place at Lake Placid and involved employees from all Divisions of the Conservation Department along with local, state and federal officials.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking at the opening  ceremonies of the 1935 celebration of the creation of the Forest Preserve.

Former Governor and then President Franklin D. Roosevelt greets visitors at the celebration.

Forest Rangers and Fire Observers at the 1935 celebration of the creation of the Forest Preserve.

All 170 district rangers, forest rangers and forest fire observers were in attendance at this celebration. It would mark the first occasion, and one of very few, where all were together in one place.

Forest Ranger and Fire Observers marching into the opening  ceremonies of the 1935 celebration of the creation of the Forest Preserve.

Pictured here are forest rangers, supervisors and forest fire observers marching in to the opening ceremony.

Forest Ranger Trucks on display at Lake Placid as a part of the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the Forest Preserve.

On display were many new forest ranger vehicles, some adapted for fire fighting purposes by the CCC Camp men from Barnham Pond at the Saranac Inn Forest Ranger Barracks and Shop.
The First National Fire Prevention Program Instituted by President Roosevelt
A 1937 Poster by James Montgomery Flagg from the PT Hartmann Collection.

1937 brought what was purportedly the first nationwide forest fire prevention campaign. While the individual states had issued forest fire warnings for years, this was a new endeavor by the US Forest Service and done at the behest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

With approximately forty million acres lost to fire each year across the nation, this campaign featured Uncle Sam as a forest ranger emphasizing people's responsibility in protecting the forest.

This poster was created by the noted illustrator James Montgomery Flagg who was famous for the Uncle Sam recruiting posters of World War 1. This poster depicts Uncle Sam in a forest ranger uniform as he warns "Your Forests - Your Fault - Your Loss."

Eleven New Vehicles Outfitted and Added to the Fleet

Nine new truck were outfitted at the shop at Saranac Inn.

1938 brought numerous additions to the forest ranger's mechanized fire fighting fleet. Eleven one-ton pickup trucks were outfitted with various types of fire fighting equipment by forest rangers and CCC Camp members at the Saranac Inn Ranger Barracks and Shop. Pictured here are nine of those vehicles.

1938 Chevy Pickup Truck outfitted with Indian Pumps and hand tools

All were provided with one portable power pump, 1000 feet of 1 1/2 inch hose, 12 five-gallon Indian Pumps and hand tools for 50 men.

1938 Chevrolet Pickup with a front mounted pump.

Four had permanently mounted centrifugal pumps that took their power from the trucks engine and transmission.

1938 radio equipped Chevrolet Pickup & District Ranger Solon Hyde

Three were radio equipped, two in the Adirondacks and one in the Catskills.

The two-way radio unit mounted on the running board of a 1938 Chevrolet Pickup

These modern, state-of-the-art units were so large that they had to be mounted in a watertight box on the running board of the truck or in the front of the trucks box.

1938 Dodge Pickup completed with a water tank, pump and booster lines along with the traditional Indian pumps and other hand tools.

The vehicles were in the truest sense fire trucks. They were not used for day to day patrol or other administrative work but rather they were kept in reserve for actual fire fighting efforts.
1940 license plate tag issued to all forest rangers.

Forest rangers were required to drive their personal vehicles for non-emergency duties and were reimbursed for the mileage driven. To identify a vehicle as that of a forest ranger, they were provided license plate tags like the one pictured here.
1940 Marked the Beginning of the Forest Ranger's Two-way Radio Communications System

The 1940 radio from St. Regis Mt. Fire Tower.

At that same time, radio technology was changing in leaps and bounds. Through cooperation with the US Forest Service, a new and more effective style two-way radio, then referred to as radiophones, was developed and several were procured. Shown here is the first such radio installed on St. Regis Mountain in Franklin County.
This, along with four others of its type, a total of seven units installed in ranger vehicles and one in the Department's new aircraft ,proved essential to the Bureau's fire fighting capabilities.

1940-waco-fred mclane2.jpg - 105951 Bytes

The use of this equipment was not limited to contacting the local forest ranger but frequently was a valuable aid in suppression measures. Radios used in conjunction with this newly acquired Waco aircraft, piloted by Fred McLane, proved helpful in directing the ranger to remote fires and providing such valuable information as the location of nearby water sources and local terrain features that might aid in containment.

1940 - Rangers attending a two-way radio training school at the Ranger Barracks at Saranac Inn.

To make the best use of this new equipment, training sessions were conducted for the forest rangers and forest fire observers.

1940 - Rangers attending a two-way radio training school at the Ranger Barracks at Saranac Inn.

Base or office units were purchased and installed in the district ranger's office in Saranac Lake and later Northville and training given.
The Number of Search and Rescue Operations Increase
As More People Are Attracted to the Wild and Remote Areas of New York

District Ranger Moses Lafountain, another ranger and two children located after a search for them in the Cranberry Lake Region.

With more and more people using the woods, rangers found themselves more and more involved in searches for lost or missing people as evidenced by the early 40's picture of District Ranger Moses LaFountain, another ranger and two children reported missing and later found in the Cranberry Lake area.
Triangulation Improves the Accuracy of Locating Forest Fires

A 1941 String Map - used to locate forest fires by triangulation.

The war had an impact on the efficiency of the fire detection system. Many observers either signed up or were drafted into the service leaving the Conservation Department short of experienced observers. The system of triangulations was initiated to make the best use of inexperienced people.

Each ranger and district office had a map like the one shown above. When two or more towers could see the smoke from a fire, their azimuths were plotted and where the stings intersected was the approximate location of the fire.

The Smokey Bear National Forest Fire Prevention Campaign Begins in 1944
The first poster of a new fire prevention program fostered by the USFS and the Advertising Council.

While the Forest Service continued with its wartime forest fire prevention campaign, it along with the Advertising Council were looking in another direction to develop a campaign aimed at children. They approached Walt Disney for permission to use the character from his 1942 hit "Bambi". Disney agreed and allowed the figures use for only one year.

1944 - The first Smokey Bear poster created by Albert Stachle.

In 1944 noted illustrator Albert Stachle created this first image of Smokey Bear pouring water on a campfire as he was saying "Care will prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires."

It would not be until 1950, when the living symbol of forest fire prevention would arrive. During a devastating forest fire in the Lincoln National Forest in the El Capitan Mountains of New Mexico a number of fire fighters were temporarily trapped by flames and sought refuge on rocky slope for more than an hour. When they emerged they discovered a small bear cub with its hind legs badly burned. The fire fighters, who nicknamed the little bear, Hotfoot Teddy, turned him over to the local Game Warden Ray Bell.

Warden Bell, in turn, took the bear cub to a veterinarian in Santa Fe for treatment of his burns. Teddy was returned to the Bell's who nursed him back to health. Warden Bell contacted the Chief of the Forest Service, offering the cub to the agency with the understanding that the small bear would be dedicated to a publicity program of fire prevention and conservation.

Smokey and his specially chartered plane that took him from New Mexico to the National Zoo in Washington DC.

So this little bear, now named "Smokey", was flown to the National Zoo in Washington DC where he became the living symbol of forest fire prevention in the United States.
Smokey lived out his life at the National Zoo passing away in 1976 due to age and health issues.

Smokey has remained the national fire prevention symbol for some 75 years. At 65, in 2009, his message has only changed slightly to:

"Only You Can Prevent Wildfires"

Paul Smith's College Opens and Offers Courses in Resort and Forest Management

A Dewight Church photo of Paul Smith's College - c. 1946.

On June 23, 1946 a small notice appeared in the Plattsburg Press Republican announcing the opening of Paul Smith's College, a non-profit institution offering "Two-year Terminal Courses in Resort Management and Forestry Management. Campus life with excellent accommodations were afforded at the famous Paul Smith's resort on St. Regis Lake in the Adirondacks. G.I.'s and high school graduates eligible for Freshman Class, Fall semester September 23."

And so began the second forestry school in the Adirondacks. For many years to follow, Paul Smith's College and the Ranger School at Wanakena provided many viable candidates for the New York State Forest Ranger Force.

The Forest Practice Act Inspires Greater Focus On Forest Management Practices
and Causes a Major Reorganization of the Division of Lands and Forests

A Paul Hartmann Image

In early 1947 the Conservation Department's Division of Lands and Forests went through a major reorganization. Previously, each bureau was for all purposes autonomous answering only to the bureau superintendent in Albany. Similarly, each bureau was organized and headquartered differently across the State.

With the enactment of the Forest Practice Act and greater emphasis on forestry, the Division was organized into fifteen Forest Districts. Each was overseen by the newly created position of district forester who was responsible for the administration of all the various bureau activities within the district. In several cases, district rangers were promoted to these new positions as both titles required a degree in forestry. District Ranger William Petty was appointed to the position of District Forester, District 9 at Saranac Lake, Maynard Fisk, District 10 at Northville, Frank Jadwin, District 13 at Middletown, Earl Brockway, District 14 at Poughkeepsie and Stan Farmer, District 11 at Lake George.

The forest ranger's fire prevention, detection and control responsibilities did not include the entire state but only those portions shaded on the above map. Rangers were, however, dispatched to locations outside

For the first time, all of the Bureaus; Forest Fire Control, Forest Pest Control, Camps and Trails, Nurseries, Forest Investigations, Forestry and the Forest Surveyors were headquartered at one location; at the newly established District Offices.

The Traditional Forest Ranger Insignia is Replaced With the Patch Still in Use Today

In 1947, the earlier "tree patch" was replaced with a new insignia issued to all forest rangers as well as others members of the bureau. Badges would remain the same as those issued in 1927 until the creation of the Department of Environmental Conservation in 1970.

A Paul Hartmann Photo A Paul Hartmann Photo A Paul Hartmann Photo A Paul Hartmann Photo

The Division of Lands and Forests and the newly created District Forester position also had separate and distinct shoulder insignia.

A Paul Hartmann Photo A Paul Hartmann Photo

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