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In search of new rescue teammates

Crook County Search and Rescue is now accepting applications for volunteers


by: PHOTO COURTESY OF BRANDI LANGE - Crook County Search and Rescue volunteers participate in a variety of training exercises like the ones shown in the above photo.

When people go missing in Crook County’s back country and forests, search and rescue volunteers are called on to find them and return them safety.

Now, as a new year begins and future missions await, the Crook County Sheriff’s Office is looking for more people to join the team.

In 2013, search and rescue conducted 10 missions and participated in evidence searches and multiple agency assists. The 58 volunteers logged 7,385 hours, 4,984 of which were spent in training and 682 more on missions. Such missions have included searches for lost hikers and hunters, missing snowmobilers and bikers, and water rescues and recoveries.

Search and Rescue Coordinator Brandi Lange would like to see the volunteer total reach 100 in order to meet the demands of the service. She noted that when a call goes out, about half or less of their 58-person volunteer force is able to respond, which may not be enough on bigger missions.

Although the primary function of search and rescue is locating people who are lost in the outdoors, volunteers can fill a variety of roles that don’t involve extensive time outside.

“Obviously, you have to have other people behind the scenes too who aren’t out there searching who have to make it run,” Lange said, highlighting such tasks as equipment maintenance, communications, and logistics.

“You have to feed your searchers,” she continued, “make sure they are warm and dry.”

Volunteers are asked to attend a training academy for a month and a half, attend monthly meetings, and participate in most search and rescue missions. Lange added that applicants need to be reliable, possess a high degree of integrity, be comfortable in all types of weather, and above all, have a genuine desire to help others.

Volunteer Jim Burge singled out another character trait that he feels applicants must possess if they want to participate in search and rescue missions.

“You have to be a team player,” he said. “We never say an individual found a person. It is a team that finds a person. That might be the person sitting in the radio communication area, or the person on horseback, or the person with the canine, but it doesn’t matter. It is the entire team that succeeds at this.”

For volunteers, the experience of help find a person can be extremely rewarding. Burge has helped rescue children from dangerous situations and returned lost kids to their parents.

“It is something that you will never forget,” he said. “You tend to remember the tiny things. I’m thinking of one 9-year-old boy, his eyes when we found him. I don’t think his eyes could have gotten any larger. He was very, very relieved, and it gives you a tremendous feeling.”

Search and Rescue volunteer applications are available at the Crook County Sheriff’s Office, 308 N.E. Second St., or online at ccssar.org. For more information on the Crook County Search and Rescue program, call 541-447-6398.




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