Community donations fuel Routt County Search and Rescue’s new ride |

Community donations fuel Routt County Search and Rescue’s new ride

Routt County Search and Rescue purchased a much needed new truck with the help of well over 100 small-dollar donations. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Routt County Search and Rescue had been putting off the purchase of a new truck for about eight years, planning to replace the vehicle after 14 years of use. But tight yearly budgets didn’t allow for such an expense.

“We just kept putting it off for year after year, and we finally got to a place where it wasn’t performing, especially in the winter time towing large trailers,” said Jay Bowman, Search and Rescue president.

The volunteer rescuers get $40,000 in funding from Routt County and $20,000 from the city of Steamboat Springs, with the rest of their funding coming from donations. Buying a new truck wouldn’t be cheap, as Search and Rescue needed a vehicle specialized for the work they do.

Through what Bowman called a total community effort, Search and Rescue raised about $100,000 in 2020. Adding that to what the group had already saved, Bowman said they were able to purchase the new truck. After new tires get put on, Bowman said the total cost of the truck is about $155,000, more than double two years of the group’s public funding.

The new truck features compartments for the various equipment that is crucial to Routt County Search and Rescue's job. This organization will save them time when responding to calls. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Bowman said there were a handful of donors who gave between $1,000 and $10,000, but there were also well over 100 smaller-dollar donations.

“Quite a large number of smaller donations made up a sizable portion of that,” Bowman said. “It was all important, and it all helped.”

Search and Rescue has held fundraisers, and Bowman said the community has always responded well, but there isn’t much time for the volunteers to organize these events. So Bowman said the nonprofit formed a marketing committee made up of community members to better organize the campaign for a new truck.

“The community responded very well,” Bowman said. “I think that support was already there; we weren’t just able to tap into it until getting better organized over the last year.”

Bowman said the new truck will help Search and Rescue do what they do better, because they won’t be relying on a 22-year-old truck.

The truck is also safer and easier for personnel to use, as the old truck had a manual transmission and a rather wide turning radius. The new truck is easier to maneuver, especially with a large trailer, and more crew members will be able to operate the vehicle.

The new truck is built on a Dodge 4500, but it was made custom for Search and Rescue to ensure it would fit the organization’s needs, said John Williams, equipment manager for Search and Rescue.

“We need to get a crew in here fast, we need to load up with any additional equipment we need, and we need to get to a staging area, because the people that we are rescuing or searching for are not on roads,” Williams said.

Rather than strapping things to the truck like they did with the old one, the new truck was designed with dedicated space for much of the equipment rescuers use on calls. It has a place to carry an ATV or a snowmobile, and it has specialized compartments for all the various things volunteers routinely use on rescues like the basic life support kit, which is used to stabilize people in the field.

“This is our workhorse to get us in position for a rescue or a search,” Williams said.

The truck will help with response times as well, Bowman said. Two of the most crucial pieces of equipment are the patient baskets and wheel that they use to move people in and out of the backcountry, which each have dedicated bays on the truck.

“Once we get to the scene, that probably saves us 15 minutes of setup time,” Bowman said.

Search and Rescue isn’t getting rid of the old truck, as it still runs fine but was just having trouble towing larger loads.

Bowman said the old truck could be a secondary response vehicle if another call were to come in or if more volunteers were needed on a rescue, potentially expanding their capacity. Search and Rescue has often relied on personal vehicles in this situation before.

“A big ‘thank you’ from all of our team members to the community for supporting us over the years,” Bowman said. “And for really stepping up when we needed it.”

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