Some search and rescue crews throughout the state of Utah are already seeing a busy start to 2021 after record-breaking callout volumes in 2020.
“The beginning of this year is probably in line with what started to happen as the problems with the pandemic turned up last year,” said Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
UCSO SAR responded to more than 130 callouts in 2020, a drastic increase from the year before. UCSO volunteers have already responded to 10 calls in the first few weeks of 2021, including an incident involving three stranded hikers atop Mt. Timpanogos on Monday night.
Utah Department of Public Safety assisted with Monday’s call for help regarding the three hikers. The Aero Bureau has been involved in 15 callouts this year, including 10 to assist with search and rescue efforts.
Meanwhile, in southern Utah, Washington County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue responded to more than 170 callouts in 2020, the most recorded by any department in the state.
“Luckily we got through the year without any of my people getting seriously hurt or injured, which is one of my primary concerns,” said Sgt. Darrell Cashin with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, who serves as the search and rescue liaison. “We were hopeful, but we got two rescues on the first of the year, and ever since then they’ve been coming about two to three days.”
Washington County SAR has responded to eight calls in the first few weeks of 2021, equaling a call every two days or so.
“Based on just a short amount of time in this year, I think we’re going to be running what we did last year if not more, and I hate to say that. I really hope we don’t,” said Sgt. Cashin. “Just so you understand, nobody wants to be the top number in search and rescue because every one of them means somebody got hurt, somebody’s lost or somebody passed away.”
An added difficulty to the SAR program in southern Utah is the lack of permanent air resources with hoist capabilities.
“We really could use a helicopter down here with a hoist on it,” said Sgt. Cashin, complimentary of LifeFlight and DPS for the time they can lend a hand. “Think about that when you are out here recreating, that if something happens, however long it took you to get there is probably how long it’s going to take us to get there.”
Attributing increased callouts statewide to the pandemic with more people venturing outside, SAR crews are continuing to remind those planning on heading out to recreate that they should have a plan and to pack the appropriate gear.