Dog helps Search & Rescue find lost man
October 28, 1996
Steamboat Springs — As soon as Danny Hilverding knew he was lost in the Dumont Lake area, he stopped in his tracks and built a fire.
He knew if he didn't return for camp, his brother Rick would search for him, and if he didn't find Danny, somebody else would, so he stayed put and warmed himself by the fire.
That, Routt County Search and Rescue volunteer says, saved his life.
"Home is where the fire is," Steur said.
Rick called search and rescue about 5;15 Thursday afternoon after Danny failed to return from a hike. Incident Commander Steur interviewed Rick that evening and decided the search would wait until morning and then search with a dog.
"It's best when the dog can get into an area early in the morning when there are few other scents," Steur said.
Jim Vail and his dog Pepper set out on Danny's trail early and, although it had snowed overnight, almost immediately picked up his scent.
Within an hour, voice contact had been established and volunteer Ed Foster had located the missing hiker.
As Foster was able to establish, Danny had hiked down Fishhook drainage for quite a few miles when he realized he was lost. He decided to retrace his steps, but realized he was still lost. So, he set up an emergency camp and built a fire.
"He did absolutely the right thing in building a fire and keeping himself warm and dry," Steur said. "It was his ability to build a fire that prevented him from getting hypothermia."
Steur said Danny would have been better off if he hadn't worn cotton and had more emergency equipment on hand.
"At least he had matches, that's the most important thing," Steur said.
Despite the snow this weekend, Danny was the only person reported missing. Steur said with snow, the search and rescue team is usually called for horse injury accidents or all-terrain vehicle rollovers. So far this year, the team has not had to respond to any seriously injured hunters, only a few who lost their way.