SISKIYOU COUNTY, Calif. – Multiple Search and Rescue teams are here from Southern Oregon and Northern California to train on Lake Siskiyou for missions on the land, water and air.
SAR members go on hundreds of missions every year, most of which are in remote locations.
“A lot of the areas that we go into are remote and so our volunteers have to get in there on a helicopter,” says Deputy Michael Burns, the Siskiyou County SAR Coordinator, “getting trained on proper techniques of getting in and out of the helicopter, hoisting; that’s a big part of their training.”
SAR volunteers from Siskiyou, Del Norte, Modoc, Jackson, Josephine, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lake, and Klamath are all a part of the weekend training including hands-on learning and workshops.
“We have DIVE, helicopters, we also have ATV certification going on for new SAR members that I haven’t been ATV certified. We have multiple classroom set up that we’re doing wilderness first aid, hypothermia; we have several doctors that are here teaching all the ins and outs of the medical aspect of what our folks might run into out in the field,” explains Deputy Burns, “It’s big for the volunteers, you know, CORSAR is a pretty tightknit group so when we have a long, extended search we call on our southern Oregon and other northern California counterparts to come assist.”
Around 200 volunteers are participating in the training this year, bringing their own experiences and expertise into the mix to help rescue strangers.
Carmen Kinch and Matt Holmes have been SAR volunteers for eight years.
“I worked for the forest service,” says Kinch, “and Matt still works for the forest service. We worked outside and we have a lot of outdoor skills that transfer perfectly into search and rescue.”
“In my day job I am a radio technician,” says Holmes, “so when I came to Search and Rescue I thought, there’s one thing I can do that I can bring to the team as a set of skills, that’s one of the reasons that I joined.”
Combined, they have went on too many missions to count. When asked about their most memorable, they both had quick responses.
“We had an Air Force person who got injured at 12,500 feet on the north side of Mount Shasta in the afternoon and the helicopter was unable to get to him because it was too windy,” Carmen says as she recounted the rescue, “We had to climb up to him, 5000 vertical feet, and put him in a litter and we carried him out all night. It took us 16 hours to get him back to the trailhead where we had an ambulance waiting for him. It saved his leg and saved his career and he went on to a full career in the air force.”
Holmes shared a rare experience of two emergencies merging into one.
“It was a couple summers ago out in Wooley Creek,” said Holmes, “We were looking for a lost father and son. They had been lost for a week. Suddenly, a wild fire started, a forest fire started, and we had crews out within a quarter-mile of where the fire was and it was moving on them. It was very tense, trying to get them extracted and luckily, we had access to the National Guard ship, the one we have out training with today, and they were able to put a landing near this fire and pull our folks out. That was dramatic. It’s not often that two emergency incidents like that meet up; a wildland fire and a search.”
SAR training partners with California Highway Patrol and the U.S. National Guard to provide training.