By Jill Reynolds
Larimer County Search and Rescue
There are 96 identical, small, black Motorola pagers scattered throughout Larimer County. They are in Red Feather Lakes, Fort Collins, Estes Park, Loveland, Livermore, Windsor, LaPorte, Wellington and Timnath.
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They are carried in pockets, purses, backpacks, cars, bicycle bags and briefcases. The folks who have them are teachers, students, authors, computer programmers, retirees, managers, retailers, engineers, massage therapists, artists and attorneys.
Some are in their 20s, some in their 70s … and everywhere in between.
As diverse as these people are, there is one thing they all have in common. When the small, black pagers go off, a simple message is concisely communicated to all: Someone needs help.
It could be a lost hiker, missing child, runaway teenager or Alzheimer’s patient. Maybe someone is stuck out on a high, rocky ledge with no way up or down. It could be a fallen climber. Hunters might be caught in an unexpected blizzard. Perhaps a horse returned to the trailhead parking lot without its rider. It could be stuck snowmobilers or mountain bikers who went over the handlebars. It could be mushroom hunters, geocachers, snowshoers, skiers, fishermen or campers. Sometimes there are darker scenarios – drunks, drug addicts or a cancer patient who has simply had enough.
It’s large events like floods and fires. It’s small events like moving traffic or relaying radio messages. It’s providing food and clothing, as well as hugs and reassurances.
You and your family can support LCSAR by attending a pancake breakfast and open house on Saturday, July 18, from 8 a.m. to noon at 1303 N. Shields St in Fort Collins. In addition to a fantastic breakfast prepared by the Fort Collins Lion’s Club, you’ll be able to see search and rescue dogs, tracking demonstrations, rescue rigging, first aid skills and wilderness safety skills. Please bring your friends, neighbors, co-workers and out-of-town visitors! See ya there!
No matter what the weather, season or time of day, members of LCSAR go where they are needed. What’s more, they love it!
“Basically, you have a group of very good-hearted people who put themselves in harm’s way for complete strangers,” said LCSAR President John Lee. “Team members give up time with their families to give to others … to be helpful. They are often in extremely challenging situations – physically, mentally and emotionally. It takes a toll.”
LCSAR members may devote up to 200 hours a year as volunteers. If not on missions, they might be at specialty trainings related to technical rescue, certifying SAR dogs, tracking or improving backcountry medical ratings. You’ll find them doing safety talks in schools and working with scouts to learn backcountry skills. They have committee, board, search manager, new member and fundraising meetings.
You bet. While LCSAR works under the direction of the Larimner County Sheriff’s Office, it is a separate 5013C that is responsible for raising its own operational funds. This comes in the form of donations, memorials, special events and grants. Members even pay dues to support the team.
As volunteers, they use their own transportation and pay for their own gas, food, outdoor gear and equipment, training and tuition for classes and conferences. They are not reimbursed.
Lee has several other things he wants the public to know about LCSAR.
“Number one, we never charge for search and rescue. This is a free service,” said Lee. “Secondly, don’t delay calling us if something seems wrong. The sooner we are called, the quicker the resolution. And finally, remember that for all the things we go through to train and prepare, we love doing this! It is our great pleasure to be of service.”
Ask Lee what is most special to him about this work, and he’ll say without hesitation, “Seeing families reunited.”