Routt County Search and Rescue calling for volunteers |

Routt County Search and Rescue calling for volunteers

Routt County Search and Rescue volunteers, from left, Russ Sanford and Jay Bowman hoist out mock patient Emily Hines from Fish Creek Falls on Tuesday while the group trained with ropes.
Matt Stensland

— Routt County Search and Rescue is among many of Colorado’s search and rescue groups that are struggling to keep its ranks filled with volunteers.

Routt County Search and Rescue board president Chad Bowdre said they currently have about 20 active members.

“Ten years ago we were probably at 50,” Bowdre said.

While there may not be a need for 50 any more because lost people carry cell phones and can find their bearings, Bowdre said 20 is too small of a number.

Search and Rescue is in the process of recruiting new members. Those who are interested can download an application at Training begins Sept. 1.

Sometimes, those interested in becoming a member have a hard time grasping the commitment.

“Ninety-nine percent of it is not glamorous,” Bowdre said.

Tuesday night’s training was more of those more glamorous moments. Volunteers were training to rescue injured or stranded hikers and rock climbers at Fish Creek Falls. A rope system was used to bring a mock patient down to the bridge.

Some of the highlights from Bowdre’s career with Search and Rescue include the missions to help stranded, lost or injured people in the outdoors who were alone and scared.

“The look on their face when they see a human, and a total stranger gives you a hug,” Bowdre said. “That’s what makes it worth it.”

Search and Rescue volunteers over the years get to visit some of the most beautiful places in Routt County that others never see. Albeit, sometimes those scenic spots are shrouded in darkness during missions, and the volunteers only see what is in front of their headlamps.

In addition to attending trainings three times a month on Tuesdays, volunteers are expected to go on about 25 percent of the missions. With an average of about 60 missions each year, that is an average of a little more than one mission each month.

The call to help can come at the most inconvenient times.

This past July 4, Bowdre spent his holiday away from family and the festivities. Instead, he helped lost hikers at Devil’s Causeway in the Flat Tops Wilderness.

Bowdre attributes the lack of volunteers at search and rescue organizations in Colorado to today’s society.

“People are just busier,” Bowdre said.

Fire departments in recent years have also been struggling to recruit volunteers.

In addition to having free time or a flexible schedule, Search and Rescue is looking for future volunteers who have general experience in the backcountry.

“We don’t necessarily need to have the best experts in the field,” Bowdre said. “We can train them on that stuff.”

New recruits will be trained and tested during a six-month probationary period in rope systems, snow safety, motorized vehicles, swift water rescue, radio communication, terrain navigation, downed aircraft and basic first aid.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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