Our View: Rescue team invaluable

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Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008

  • Bryna Larsen, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Eric Morris, community representative
  • Paul Draper, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— The calls tend to come at the most inconvenient times, but Routt County Search and Rescue volunteers quickly get used to it. They have to.

The team of 35 or so local volunteers is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to respond to local and regional emergencies, often involving backcountry incidents.

They work in extreme conditions and often under dire circumstances - the weekend rescue of 8-year-old Kade Green from the banks of the raging Fish Creek is a timely and unfortunate example. Kade's mom, 40-year-old Rebecca Green, still has not been found after she fell into Fish Creek while trying to reach her son.

Routt County Search and Rescue volunteers spent Saturday hiking to Upper Fish Creek Falls and setting up a sophisticated rope system to rescue Kade. They spent much of the remainder of the weekend and Monday searching for his mom.

Most Routt County Search and Rescue members say they give their time as a way of giving back to the community they cherish. Truth is, most of us probably take for granted the commitment and sacrifice each volunteer makes to help those in need.

Routt County Search and Rescue is an independent, nonprofit corporation with zero paid staffers. Volunteers spend a minimum of six months completing the requisite training to become a Search and Rescue member. Once a member, all Search and Rescue volunteers are required to attend 50 percent of the ongoing, twice-monthly training exercises, and respond to a minimum of 25 percent of the missions. There are between 50 and 80 missions during a typical year. Search and Rescue's Ropes Team has an additional two trainings a month.

Missions run the gamut from urban searches for missing children to helping law enforcement agencies locate individuals threatening suicide. More often, they involve lost or injured snowmobilers, skiers, hunters and hikers. Too often, they involve missing aircraft.

"If you can't drive a fire truck or ambulance to it, we're the ones who take care of it," Search and Rescue President Russ Sanford said.

Routt County Search and Rescue relies on funding from the city and county, as well as private donations and Department of Local Affairs grants to cover its approximately $80,000 annual operating budget. And that funding is far from stable. The city of Steamboat Springs, which classifies Search and Rescue funding as part of its "community support" budget, slashed the group's 2009 allocation by 54 percent during previous years - from $43,500 to less than $20,000. Private donations also are iffy during lean economic times, and Search and Rescue members hope their annual fundraiser scheduled for September won't experience a decline. The organization always is in need of new equipment, and it takes money to provide it.

There are things we can do to help ensure the future success of Routt County Search and Rescue.

First, the Steamboat Springs City Council should reclassify Search and Rescue funding as something other than "community support." Rescuing our friends, family, co-workers and visitors is never an option, and fully funding the volunteer group that does the rescuing shouldn't be either.

Second, all residents and visitors should spend the $3 a year for a CORSAR card. Search and rescue organizations such as Routt County's can get reimbursed by the state for the expense of a mission if the subject of the search or rescue is a CORSAR cardholder. Purchase one at Steamboat's Colorado Division of Wildlife office. Nonetheless, it's important to point out that Search and Rescue never charges individuals for expenses incurred on a mission.

Third, consider attending Search and Rescue's annual fundraiser, preliminarily scheduled for Sept. 11. The event typically raises $10,000 to $15,000. Stronger community support of this event should allow it to raise even more. Search and Rescue also accepts individual donations. Send one to P.O. Box 772837, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477.

Finally, consider becoming a Search and Rescue volunteer. It's a significant time commitment, but try finding a current member who won't vouch for its worthiness. Applications are available at www.routtcountysar.org, but the group only does one recruiting class per year, typically in the fall. Completed applications can be mailed to the address above.

Recent missions have raised awareness of Routt County Search and Rescue and should inspire community members to support this vital organization.

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