East End Forest Ranger Bryan Gallagher was one of 40 rangers honored by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in Albany for distinguished actions recently.
Nineteen-year veteran Forest Ranger Gallagher, 50, of Shelter Island, was presented with a Director’s Commendation Award for Outstanding Service for his work with the New York Wildfire and Incident Management Academy.
The academy was developed after the wildfires that tore through the areas of Rocky Point and Westhampton in 1995, an emergency that left hundreds of people displaced. Approximately 175 fire departments — roughly 2000 volunteers — spent over a week and a half putting out the fires.
The academy combines tactics, techniques, and incident management to help prepare local agencies in their responses to wildland fires. It is held every spring and fall.
He has worked tirelessly, assisting with the academy’s operation, and his contributions have frequently been recognized as integral to its success, officials said. He was also recognized for the passion, commitment, and success that he has brought to the wildland firefighting community.
Gallagher joined the wildfire academy in 1999, one year after its formation. However, his role has grown over the years. He helps plan — coordinating supplies, equipment, and field sites — then assists in logistics over the 10-day academy for anywhere from 200 to 650 first responders each semester.
The forest ranger has achieved milestones in the field of incident management as a member of the state Incident Management Team. He is also a logistics chief, and has held numerous leadership positions in the logistical and operational field. Gallagher is often among the first called to set up the vital logistical support system upon which an incident response operates.
Throughout his career, Gallagher has responded to both state and national emergencies, including wildfires, hurricanes, and oil spills. Most recently, he responded to the wildfires in Montana and flooding in Monroe County in upstate New York.
Gallagher has spent his entire career in Region 1, which includes Long Island. During his 19 years in the field, he has become a mentor and leader to the past seven classes of rangers to begin their careers on Long Island, officials said.
Gallagher said it’s good to be honored because, “It’s not something that happens to a lot of rangers.”
“It’s nice to be recognized for all the work that I’ve done down here,” he said.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos noted forest rangers are the state’s first line of defense in protecting the environment and safeguarding natural resources.
“Their knowledge of land navigation, wildfire firefighting, first aid, and technical rescue techniques is critical to the success of their missions, which take them from remote wilderness areas and rugged mountainous peaks, to white-water rivers and vast forested areas ravaged by fires,” he stated in a press release.
In 1885, the New York State legislature established the Forest Preserve of New York State, setting aside land in the Adirondacks and Catskills to be protected as “forever wild,” thus marking the establishment of what were then called Fire Wardens. In 1911, the Conservation Department was formed and the new title Forest Ranger was born.
The DEC’s 140 forest rangers conducted 346 search and rescue missions, extinguished 55 wildfires that burned a total of 191 acres, participated in 29 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 564 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 2100 tickets or arrests in 2017.
Director of Forest Protection Eric Lahr said the ceremony was created to recognize the outstanding service of the state’s forest rangers who have demonstrated bravery and leadership in the performance of their duties. “In the finest ranger tradition, each of these honorees has risen above expectations in the protection of our natural resources and the public,” he said.
The DEC’s Division of Forest Protection Awards are presented every three years and recognize the courageous acts and outstanding service of this state law enforcement branch tasked with wilderness search and rescue missions, forest fire suppression, state land patrols, and backcountry public education efforts.