Gallatin County Sheriff ’s Office Search and Rescue Volunteers used a snow ambulance near Yellowstone National Park over Christmas break to get an injured snowmobiler help. PHOTO COURTESY GALLATIN COUNTY

No rest for Search & Rescue

Christmas break saw back-to-back calls for volunteers

When humans head to the wilderness, things can happen quickly. Weather shifts, lightning strikes, animals attack. This is not to say that nature has antipathy for humans, but more apathy. That might even be part of the appeal for outdoor enthusiasts – a thrill.

During those times when conditions render people helpless, there are men and women on the ready to assist. In Gallatin County, those rescuers are volunteers with the Gallatin County Sheriff ’s Search and Rescue (SAR).

It is a scene that has played out repeatedly in the west: brave souls running up mountains in thunderstorms and snowstorms with medical supplies while others strategize a flight in the midst of often unbelievable wind. Plans and contingency plans are created, necessary when attempting rescues in wild places and at elevation.

Local SAR volunteers saw no rest on Christmas break, in fact they received back-toback emergency calls including overturned canoers. The bulk of calls were snowmobile accidents from first time users.

Many municipalities struggle to fund rescue efforts, resulting in some states charging those in trouble if they ask for assistance. Local SAR efforts are funded through a mill levy, so people are still paying for it, but individuals are not getting billed.

“You could be from another state and this could be your first day in the woods and we would come and rescue you like you were a brother, sister, cousin or friend,” Gallatin County Search and Rescue Commander Capt. Scott Secor said.

If people need help, the Sheriff ’s Office wants them to seek it and not have the issue of cost weighing on their minds when determining if a call for help should be made.

“We don’t want to prevent people from asking for help. We don’t want cost to be a factor, we want to be able to offer the service to anyone and everyone, no matter if they can afford it. We want to be able to help people,” he said.

There are complexities to the funding available, Secor explained, but the state does reimburse the county for when a helicopter is used, for example.

The dedication of the men and women who volunteer, who drop their forks at the dinner table and run out to rescue people is admirable, he said.

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