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April 2012


P.O. BOX 357

A self-supporting, not-for-profit group of volunteer citizens dedicated to improving safety in the Arizona wilderness.

Operating under the authority of the Gila County Sheriff's Office
John Armer, Sheriff

TRSAR Squad meets monthly

General Public Welcome
2nd Thursday @ 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Payson Public Library Meeting Room
328 N. McLane Road - Payson, Arizona


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Don’t forget.
The meetings this month are:

Board  Meeting: Tuesday the 10th, 1600 Hrs at the Squad Building.

General Meeting: Thursday the 12th, 1900 Hrs at the Library.


Commanders Corner

Mission Debriefs:

After 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 the dark.

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 by 3:30AM.

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 hundred feet.

Good missions, excellent turnout, excellent performance by all involved!

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 the preserve.

"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 map.

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.