Behind The Badge – Maine Forest Rangers – Part 2

Wayne Harvey

Updated 2 months ago

The old image of Forest Rangers sitting in a fire tower looking for smoke is a thing of the past.

Rangers do much more than that, but many people don’t know what role they play in our state.

Not only do Forest Rangers patrol the woods in their trucks and by foot.

They also do so by air, and with large coverage areas, flights are a key tool in their job

“We’re only a few minutes out of Old Town and it’s just remote wilderness, woods,” says Ranger Ben Goodwin. “An average unit 350 400 Thousand acres, and for one Ranger to cover that whole thing, there’s a lot, it’s quite a chore to try to get to all the spots in that unit, so having this helicopter asset really helps us fly the unit, really get an understanding of what’s going on in the unit and then as we get on the ground with our trucks, we can get to the problem areas so we can see them.”

“One of our leading complaints last year, and we average between 36 hundred to 4 thousand complaints a year, one of our most complaint things last year was dumping trash, I think we had almost 500 complaints that were Ranger worked that, a lot of towns are going to pay as you dump, so we’re getting more and more people who drive out these Studmill Roads, get off the end of a back road and they’ll dump a bunch of trash,” said Ranger Goodwin “And what we’re seeing more and more is these companies that manage these large tracts of land out here are shutting off their land to everybody because they are having such a problem with dumping trash.”

“Look down here,” Goodwin pointed out from the helicopter circling above. “Actually looks like an old junk yard where they’ve dumped a bunch of trash, doesn’t look too new, but that’s what we run into quite a bit when off these dirt roads, there’s a little turn off where somebody can get in there, they’ll get out back and just dump a bunch of trash.”

“You look at some of this forest it’s all that soft growth.” Goodwin noted. “That will really burn, and if it does get going, you can there’s huge tracts of land out here and if they get going, it will be tough for us, one to get access into them, and then to fight the fire out here is quite a chore also.”

“There’s huge chunks of area in between these roads where if we do have a fire or if we do need to get in, having this helicopter asserts where Lincoln ( Lincoln Mazzei, helicopter pilot ) can put on a bucket, land on one of these roads put on his bucket and pull out of these ponds that are local right here and work that fire until we’re able to get in to that fire.”

“And often times the roads are just so unmarked on maps,” said Ranger Pilot Lincoln Mazzei. “And sometimes unpassable, often times I will fly overhead and try to lead them in the fire because it is so difficult”

“I see a little smoke off the nose, it looks pretty benign from here but, it takes two seconds to check it out and we can see if it looks like he’s burning anything illegal, or if there’s nobody there monitoring it, or if it’s getting away from the person that’s burning it, or if later on Ben wants to drive by here to make sure the guy’s got a permit to do this. Pretty easy for me to check five or ten of these in an hour where it would take Ben all day, and he’d have to find the from the ground.”

“We’re able to see, it looks like there’s two guys down there, it looks like it’s in a fire ring, this wouldn’t be as much of a concern for us, where other ones that the landowner, like I said, had the fire the night before, thought it was out, came back and it wasn’t.”

“Lincoln isn’t just trained on this 407 or one of the Huey’s, it’s the fixed wings, it’s our three different kinds of helicopters, so the pilots that we have are well trained and they do great job in all the aircrafts that we have.”

“Awwww,, thanks Ben.”