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Class Begins for Local Search and Rescue

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Josephine County is training its next class of search and rescue volunteers this weekend. About 60 people met today in Grants Pass to learn the latest in survival and life saving techniques.

The course lasts about a month every year. By the time it ends late April, volunteers will have 60 hours of training under their belts. Combine that with CPR certification, and they’ll be qualified to join the team.

The teams are trained to handle any number of rescue scenarios. They say they have to be.

“We’ve got a lot of places here for people to enjoy nature,” said Monica McFadden, a veteran volunteer. “With enjoying nature can come loss or injury.”

The department is all volunteer. This class is learning the latest in wilderness survival, GPS tracking, and basic medical response. It’s a big investment, not just in time, but also money.

“The volunteers here in this class will be asked to develop a 24-hour [survival] pack. That’s probably $200-$400 dollars worth of equipment. They’re gonna get that on their own,” said McFadden.

Despite federal funds disappearing in recent years, longstanding volunteers say the operation has become more professional. The equipment garage has a command center, advanced communication equipment, and vehicles for all terrains. All of it comes from grants and donations.

“There’s been a lot of focus on getting what we need, which means we’re scroungers,” said McFadden.

Volunteers say those skills and equipment will be called upon a lot this Spring. Early season hiking means the trails aren’t as well maintained, and cold nights mean exposure risk. Each new person and piece of equipment means bigger search efforts, with the hopes of getting there just a little bit sooner.

“We need to find them fast,” said McFadden. “I mean, time if our enemy in search and rescue.”