ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team ended 2019 with a total of 130 call outs, just three calls shy of breaking 2018’s record.
“It’s been kind of busy,” Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. and Sheriff’s Office liaison for the search and rescue team Darrel Cashin told the Washington County Commission Tuesday.
During its second meeting each month, the commission has an emergency services report given by a representative of the Sheriff’s Office who reports on search and rescue activity over the last 30 days.
As of Tuesday, the team had responded to a total of 10 calls in the new year.
Between Dec. 20, 2019, and Jan. 21, 2020, search and rescue teams responded to around 14 incidents that ranged from injured hikers and standard motorists to missing juveniles and lost ATV groups.
Among incidents of note that occurred during this time included responding to hikers stuck on Island in the Sky in Snow Canyon State Park on Dec. 22; a mother and her three young children who were stuck on Mollie’s Nipple in the Hurricane area on Dec. 24; aiding Washington City emergency responders with a man who had attempted to hang himself in the cliffs above the Sullivan Virgin River Soccer Park on Dec. 26; helping a man injured in an ATV accident in Sand Hollow State Park on Dec. 28; and more recently, rappelling a woman with an injured foot over 400 feet down from Island in the Sky on Jan. 19.
“This gives you a rundown of how it’s been the last 30 days,” Cashin said.
Combined search and rescue man-hours for 2019, which includes time on calls and training, amounted to over 7,600 hours of donated time from the volunteers that make up the team, Cashin said.
“It’s amazing we have people like this in the community who work search and rescue and are willing to drop everything they are doing in their lives and get out and help somebody else,” Commissioner Victor Iverson said.
Cashin agreed, adding that members of the search and rescue team who were at Snow Canyon for the Island in the Sky incident Jan. 19 broke into two groups to addresses incoming calls from the LaVerkin and Utah Hill areas, which are on opposite sides of the county.
“They worked all day long donating time to get people,” Cashin said. “They’re a good, wonderful group of people.”
Among the new tools the search and rescue team has used over the last year is a drone. It’s use was originally reported in January 2019 as it was used to provide a spotlight on people stuck on a ledge in Snow Canyon. It also gave rescuers the light they needed to operate at night.
The drone is also used to help locate lost individuals, send messages to people and transport small items like a radio or water bottle to people who have been located but have to wait for rescuers to reach them.
More recently, the drone was used to help transport rope lines to search and rescue personnel on Island in the Sky who helped rappel an injured hiker down 410 feet.
While the county search and rescue team is composed of volunteers, with Cashin being the only paid member as a part of the Sheriff’s Office, funding for the team and its equipment comes from various sources. In some cases, equipment and vehicles used by the volunteers are their personal vehicles and material.
A line item in the Sheriff’s budget does go toward the search and rescue team to cover the cost of equipment purchases, as well as repairs, rescue supplies and any other material needed for search and rescue operations.
This money comes from public funds taken from a part of the fees paid toward registration and renewal of off-road vehicles and boats, as well as fishing and hunting licenses.
Additional money comes from community donations. It’s not uncommon for specific groups or businesses to hold fundraisers or make donations to the search and rescue team that can garner anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000.
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