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Zion National Park officials report spike in search and rescue calls

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Posted at 10:09 PM, Jul 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-22 08:55:12-04

ZION NATIONAL PARK - Search and rescue crews are seeing a spike in calls within park boundaries. Supervisors say it could just be more people in the park, but worry hikers are going into the wilderness unprepared.

Statistic compiled from quarterly reports show crews responded to 57 search and rescue calls since January 2015, compared to 32 during the same time in 2014. That’s a 78 percent jump.

“For us, the biggest thing is trying to keep up with the amount that are occurring,” said Zion National Park Spokeswoman Aly Baltrus.

Numbers from 2014 show the majority of the rescues came from simple errors in judgment, which landed hikers in difficult situations. That was followed by fatigue and falls.

The park hands out printed safety material when people pick up permits and at the park entrance, but supervisors fear some are thinking it will never happen to them, and end up getting in trouble.

“We’re not going to tell you that you’re not prepared necessarily to hike,” Baltrus said. “But when we get a call that there’s somebody up there that has no water, obviously they didn’t prepare well enough to be up there.”

Even with preparation, it’s easy to get turned around in the 200-square-foot wilderness of Zion National Park. On July 11, a 24-year-old man fell from a ledge in Heaps Canyon and died. Baltrus said the group got off course and ran into some more difficult terrain.

Baltrus said the goal is to educate hikers to over prepare for their excursions. That means bringing extra food, water, or in some cases clothes.