LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Some of Colorado’s search and rescue teams are reporting higher than average call volumes early in their busiest season.
“This tells us we may be in for a busy rest of the year, busy summer, which is pretty disconcerting. But we’re going to respond to any mission we have without doubt and without hesitation,” said Steve Wilson, mission coordinator with Alpine Rescue Team.
The Alpine Rescue Team has recorded 53 missions so far this year, well ahead of the 32 missions at this point in 2020. Last year turned out to be the second busiest on record for the team, as COVID-19 pushed more people into the outdoors.
“It does put a burden on our team members and their families, and their jobs, and their lives,” Wilson said.
Colorado’s search and rescue teams are volunteer-based and do not charge anything for responding to missions. The commitment takes up a lot of hours, especially in the busy season.
Wilson said their crew responded to three missions, three days in a row: two were calls to Torreys Peak and another was for an injured hiker near Echo Lake.
“A high altitude rescue on Torreys Peak can run eight or 12 hours, and that will wipe anybody out,” Wilson said.
The Colorado Search and Rescue Association coordinates resources for teams across the state.
“I think COVID is still pushing people into the outdoors. I think a lot of people got introduced to new outdoor pursuits that they now have a passion for,” CSAR spokesperson Anna DeBattiste said.
DeBattiste said their coordinators are experiencing an increase in calls for resources from search and rescue teams across the state. As of June 10, they recorded 43 calls so far. That tops 35 at the same point in 2020 and 25 in 2019.
Despite rising rescue rates, DeBattiste said they have no plans to change their approach to providing free rescue for all.
“We believe very strongly, not only in Colorado but in most states, that charging for search and rescue is not a good practice. One of the most important reasons for that is when people fear they’re going to be charged, they delay calling,” DeBattiste said.
She says that can lead to greater injury and complicate rescue circumstances.
DeBattiste encourages people to educate themselves before heading out in the back country, wear personal flotation devices on the water, and have the proper gear for whatever activity you’re participating in.
COSAR cards cost less than 3 dollars per year, fund new equipment purchases, and help teams get reimbursed immediately for rescue costs if you happen to need help.