Our View: Unsung heroes | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Unsung heroes

Events of Aug. 9 and 11, two of them tragic and a third harrowing, reminded us of how much the greater community relies apon the 30 volunteers with Routt County Search and Rescue.

In a relatively short period of time this past week, Search and Rescue members took the lead role in a search for an aircraft that went down Aug. 9 in thick timber, and then Aug. 11, they extricated a hiker with a broken ankle from nearly the top of a 10,000-foot peak and assisted the Colorado State Patrol in reaching a Forest Service truck that had tumbled down a steep embankment in an accident that claimed the life of a longtime Hayden resident.

Crews were prepared for that sudden burst of activity because Search and Rescue members train diligently in a wide range of skills, including first responder treatment of injuries, expertise in GPS-location finding, rope skills needed for rescues on cliffs and mountainsides and seamless interaction with other emergency response agencies.

Significantly, they also are willing to interrupt their careers and family lives on short notice in order to come to the rescue of strangers who are lost in the backcountry or who have sustained injuries in remote locations.

Search and Rescue is a nonprofit composed of volunteer members who are willing to put themselves in the path of danger in order to come to the aid of others. And without them, the outdoor lifestyle so many of us enjoy would be far riskier.

So, we weren’t surprised when veteran members of Search and Rescue pressed the search for the downed aircraft beyond midnight and into the early morning hours in darkness. To fully understand how difficult this search must have been, one would have to have experienced setting out for a long hike through forest where there are no trails, stepping and climbing over downed trees, many of them studded with the sharp, broken ends of branches.

And we weren’t surprised when Search and Rescue showed the resilience, the depth of training and command experience required to extricate the injured hiker and support another agency with recovering the Forest Service truck on Buffalo Pass in the same day.

However, you might be surprised to learn that Routt County Search and Rescue does not charge accident victims and lost hunters for its services.

If there is a problem, it might be that Search and Rescue is easily mistaken for a branch of local government, when in fact, it is a nonprofit that depends heavily on contributions to fund its operations and maintain its equipment, which includes numerous snowmobiles, a snowcat and a high-tech mobile command center.

In light of their recent heroic efforts, it’s a good time to acknowledge all of the men and women of Search and Rescue, past and present.

The members of the 2014 crew include Andrew Plaks, Andy Kerrigan, Bill Murphy, Britni Johnson, Brittany Letendre, Chad Bowdre, Chris Van Ruler, Dalton Reed, Darrel Levingston, Delbert Bostock, Dusty Atkinson, Glen Hammond, Glenn Sommerfeld, Greg Jaeger, Hugh Newton, Jakub Dybala, Jason Weber, Jay Bowman, Jen DiCarlo, Jim Linville, John Daschle, John Kugler, Kristia Check-Hill, Marc Bell, Matt Elkins, Michael Boatwright, Rory Clow, Ross Sessions, Russ Sanford and Ryan Connelly.

If you have a credit card, you quickly can make your support for Routt County Search and Rescue tangible at the organization’s Web page. Alternatively, if you already have a hunting or fishing license, or have a registered boat, snowmobile or ATV, you are contributing to a fund that helps local search and rescue organizations like Routt County’s around the state.

However, many hikers don’t realize that they can do the same by purchasing a $3 ($12 for five years) Colorado Search and Rescue fund card at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office, 925 Weiss Drive in Steamboat Springs.

And if you ever get in a jam in the mountains, Routt County Search and Rescue is sure to respond.

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