Commanders CornerAfter one mission in January, we
went clear into March without a mission, and then were hit
with three missions within an hour on March 16th.
Sgt Hudgens was working a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) in
the Sandy Saddle area of the Mazatzals, and had us on
standby until they could work out a better location. The
signal was spotty, and at least one satellite pass received
no signal. When the signal was better validated, he called
in a helicopter to better locate the subject.
While the PLB missions was going on, Sheriffs Office
received a call for an injury on the Fossil Springs trail
about 2 miles in. Mounted Posse was dispatched to that one.
Almost immediately, a call was received for a possibly
broken knee in Box Canyon, and TRSAR was dispatched to that
one. It took a bit of time to locate the subject, he was a
bit downstream from our normal location. Christopher-Kohls
Fire was also dispatched. Fire decided a helicopter might be
able to long line the subject out of this lower part of the
canyon where it is a bit wider than it is upstream. We moved
rope rescue gear into position just in case DPS would not be
able to perform the rescue. DPS Ranger assigned to the PLB
case had a technical team on board, so they diverted to this
rescue and performed an excellent job.
In the meantime, Sgt Hudgens called in the Central Arizona
Mountain Rescue team’s helicopter, Fox10, for the PLB
search. About the time we finished in Box Canyon, Fox10 was
able to locate a campfire in the vicinity of the PLB, but
the subject was 1600 ft down in a steep canyon, and there
was no way the helicopter could get close in the dark. DPS
Ranger took a look after they finished Box Canyon and
confirmed the assessment – not able to get close enough in
Terry and I looked at maps of the location, and determined
there was no reasonable way to get a team into that canyon
that wouldn’t take until daylight anyway, so we opted to
wait for daylight and get another assessment by helicopter.
DPS Ranger came back at first light and determined they
could actually get close enough to put the medic out and
assess the subject. The subject had been ill for 2 days, and
got off trail into this steep canyon. Ranger was able to get
the subject into a location where they could one-skid land
and get him aboard, and they were out by 9:30 AM.
The next mission occurred Saturday night, March 31 around
11:30PM when we got the call. Two subjects got separated
from their party of 5 on the way out of Fossil Springs. One
was diabetic so there was some urgency to the mission. The
suspicion was that they missed the trail out, and went
upstream. Three hiking teams were sent into the canyon in
order to split up at the bottom. Sgt Hudgens called in DPS
Ranger again in order to hopefully give us a location to
hike to. Terry gave coordinates of where folks sometimes
wind up when they go upstream. We were just about to the
bottom of the canyon when DPS arrived. They located the
subjects at the exact coordinates, and actually found a
place to land nearby. They were able to load and fly the
subjects out. We got a 6 mile round trip hike, and back home
The next mission occurred Monday, April 2, at 7:30AM. Sgt
Hudgens had been notified of an overdue party at midnight.
The subject had gone fishing in Haigler Creek below the
Alderwood Campground on Friday. He did not return home
Sunday evening, so his sons drove up and started searching,
and also notified GCSO. They found him at 5:00AM ˝ mile
below the campground with a knee injury and unable to hike
out. He had injured his knee on Friday, so had been there
since Friday night.
Deputy Rod Cronk arrived and assessed that it would be too
difficult to extract up the stream. It was very rough, with
large boulders and short cliffs. With help from one of the
sons and the local deputy, they located a bluff above the
subject that we could drive to and set up for rope rescue.
We were probably 400 ft vertical, and 1800 ft horizontal
distance from the subject. It was steep angle rescue for
most of it with two 20-25 ft vertical sections at the bottom
of the canyon. We rope assisted Pleasant Valley Fire and
ourselves down into the canyon, and then packaged the
subject into our litter. We used multiple haul systems to
get the subject up the two vertical sections, and up the
steep section until we could get close to where a helicopter
could land. We were able to use a quad for the last few
Good missions, excellent turnout, excellent performance by
Stay safe and stay prepared.
Bill Pitterle – Commander, #500
How You Can Help on Rope Team Missions
Rope Team callouts need the help of non-rope team members.
Typically when someone needs rescuing at one of our known
rope team locations, like Box Canyon, the call out message
will state that the rope team is needed. This means that we
need certified rope team members to respond and the mission
will require their specialized gear.
But physically capable squad members who are not rope team
certified would also be a great. There is usually a
significant need for non-rope team members and you are
greatly encouraged to respond to rope team call outs also.
We could use help in hauling gear, helping out family
members, supporting communications, clear brush if needed,
provide physical assistance on the haul team, providing
light to work areas, etc.
An example is the mission last month at Box Canyon. Where
the subject was located was a new and difficult place for us
to get access. Luckily a helicopter was available to get the
subject out. If the helicopter had not been available we had
a long night and a lot of work ahead of us. We could have
been shorthanded given the members who responded. Where the
subject was located required us to clear brush and we would
most likely have needed two haul fields. We had a good
response from the squad rope team members but could have
used additional help from our general membership.
Interesting SAR Related Info
by Ofelia Madrid - Mar. 23, 2012 09:22 AM
The Republic | azcentral.com
At one time, if a hiker got hurt within Scottsdale's 17,000
acres of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and someone managed
to call 911 for help, the call was routed to the same
address, 18333 N. Thompson Peak Parkway.
No matter if the hiker was stranded on the other side of the
preserve, firefighters were routed to this address. As more
trailheads opened to the public, the need to install GPS
markers in the preserve increased.
"So, we know if someone gets hurt, we know exactly where
they are," Scottsdale Deputy Fire Chief Jim Ford said.
Today, there are more than 65 emergency markers throughout
the 60 miles of trails in the preserve. City officials
estimate that almost 290,000 hikers make their way to a
Scottsdale trail every year.
"When we put out a new trail sign, included is the emergency
marker, about three inches across underneath the sign," said
Scott Hamilton, a Scottsdale preserve planner.
The unique collection of letters -- for example, at Lost Dog
Trail, the code begins with LD1 -- is associated with a GPS
coordinate for that exact location. Hikers will find the
markers wherever two trails intersect.
The markers have become a tremendous help for the Fire
Department's technical rescue teams when they are called to
"It allows us to know which way our resources need to get in
there, what is the fastest access, and which trailhead is
the best way to get in there," Ford said.
"It's going to be important," he said, referring to the GPS
markers. "The park just purchased north of Dynamite, if
you're not on the power-line trails, it will be difficult
for us to find you."
Ford gave the recent example of two young men who decided to
get off the trail and walk to the towers on Thompson Peak.
"They were a mile off, and it was dark," Ford said. "We
called out the helicopter trying to find these guys. Can you
imagine looking over 20 square miles trying to find two
specs in the dark? Luckily, one guy's cellphone battery was
still alive and we ended up seeing the cellphone light."
In addition to the markers, the Fire Department has
redeployed its special-operations teams to fire stations
near the preserve. These are the firefighters certified in
mountain rescues and ropes rescue.
"Now, we have those guys with the skills in those risk
areas," Ford said.
The stations are:
Station 7: 11160 N. 132nd St.
Station 10, 16701 N. 100th St.
Station 14: 27777 N. Alma School Parkway.
When the markers were installed, they were intended to help
with maintenance. But "it became pretty clear right off the
bat that they were important for emergency response and
users started navigating with them," Hamilton said.
Now, the markers are included in the city's trailhead user
The markers take on more importance as Scottsdale continues
to expand the preserve. City officials recently acquired
thousands of acres north of Dynamite Boulevard with plans to
preserve 34,000 acres.
"The preserve is growing and with that comes the need to
expand the emergency-response capabilities," Hamilton said.