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Front Page » June 15, 2010 » Carbon County News » Sweet words to the stranded: Search and Rescue is coming
Published 1,527 days ago

Sweet words to the stranded: Search and Rescue is coming


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

For a lot of people, hearing about the Carbon County Search and Rescue team comes only once a year when they hold their benefit demolition derby at the fairgrounds (this year it will be held on June 26). That event is always a lot of fun.

For others, the sound of their name is a lot sweeter, though. For those injured, stranded or just plain lost, the sound of someone saying, "Search and rescue is coming to get you," is as sweet as the purest honey.

And those kinds of things do happen around here.

Each year the Carbon Search and Rescue members pluck people from some bad situations. They handle situations that range from downed aircraft to lost hikers; from those that may be stranded in or on the water to those stuck in the snow, way out of the way. And while they are volunteers, they are dedicated to saving lives, easing pain and taking away anxiety of people they help.

"A couple of winters ago we rescued some people that were trapped up on Bear Ridge in the middle of the winter," said CCS&R commander Frank Pugliese. "Their snowmobiles were stuck deeply in the snow and they had hiked down into some trees to keep out of the weather. When we put the woman in the snow cat she began to cry. She said, 'I thought we were going to die out here.'"

It is a big order to be on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And often the calls for help come at the worst times; often on weekends or on holidays that members of the team would rather be sharing with their families. But when the call comes they are ready.

"Our members get paged and they respond," said Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova. "These guys and gals are dedicated."

Time is of the essence in an emergency. That's why fire departments are always ready to go, trucks in the bays with the doors open and turnout gear ready to be donned. The new search and rescue facility is set up the same way; they can be on the road in only a few minutes because a life or lives may be at stake.

"In our old building we had so little room and much of our bigger equipment was outside," stated Pugliese. "For instance when we were called for snow rescue in the days before this facility was built we would have to clean snow off the trucks and the snow machine, load trailers, tie everything down, etc. We would be doing that while were were trying to dig out what we needed and getting organized. Now everything is ready to go when we need it. Before it could be as much as 45 minutes before we were out on the road; now it is less than 15 minutes."

The new building has a spacious training area to provide training for the 24 people involved on the team, along with a high tech communications center and offices to keep things organized. Most of the $1.1 million to build the building came from basically two sources: the Special Recreation and Transportation District and the Permanent Community Impact Board. But as the building was being completed, above the training area and office was just a void with beams. Money that the search and rescue made over the years from the derby helped to fund completion of this area as a place for members to keep their personal gear for all kinds of weather and situations. Much of the work in this area was done by the members themselves.

"We did this so that each member would have their own space in which to get ready and in which they could keep their personal equipment," said Cordova. "We have some women on the team and they needed privacy, and of course the men needed that as well."

The bays where big equipment are parked are drive in and drive out bays. Rescue vehicles including the snow cat, boats, ATVs and snowmobiles are loaded on trailers and ready to be dispatched at a moment's notice.

"I know some people wonder what we do out here, but we are required to have 20 hours of training on techniques and technology that have to do with search and rescue each year," said Pugliese. "Most of the members get many more hours of training than that."

The actual rescues number in the dozens each year. Pugliese and Cordova estimate that between 60-70 percent of those that get into trouble are from the Wasatch Front. Another 10-20 percent are from other areas. Only about 10 percent of the situations involve local residents.

"They seem, for the most part, to know what to do and how not to get into the situations where our help is needed," said Pugliese. "But that isn't always true. We had some locals last year pull up a dirt road in a truck and get stuck in the snow, and then they called a relative to come pull them out and they got stuck and then a third relative came with a truck and it got stuck. By that time it was getting dark. There were little kids involved and people in tennis shoes with the wrong clothes for the weather. I think they were pretty happy when we came out and pulled them out of the mess they were in."

Wintertime is the busiest for the agency. People get stuck or get to far into the back country and can't get out.

"In the heat at least people can hunker down and cool off at night, but generally they aren't threatened by the temperatures," stated Pugliese. "In the winter with sub-zero temperatures it is easily a matter of life or death."

So the CCS&R is not something you may ever need... or hope you won't need. But it is absolutely necessary and is there if you do need it to help you.

Remember that on Demo Derby Day. The money you spend can be the money that helps save a life.

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June 15, 2010
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