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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Search and Rescue Missions in Nearby Wilderness Areas Soar

Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

Rescues in the canyons and mountains north of Altadena have risen dramatically so far this year and will mark a 50 percent increase over last year if stranded and injured hikers and animals continue to require emergency responses at the current rate.

“We’ve been getting at least one to two calls per week in 2016 alone,” said Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Daniel Paige, Coordinator for the volunteer Altadena Mountain Rescue Team.

Emergency calls have resulted in 58 rescue missions for the team since January, Paige said. This number compares to 88 for all of 2015.

“It’s too early to tell if it’s a substantially high number of calls being only halfway through the year, but we are definitely busy,” said Paige.

The team has responded to two deaths so far this year. Last month, 57-year-old San Diego doctor died while piloting a single engine airplane which crashed and burned at the 4,000 foot elevation on the rugged cliffside of Brown Mountain.

Then last weekend, a 69-year-old woman died suffering from medical complications while hiking on the Sam Merrill Trail.

The Altadena Mountain Rescue Team is on call around the clock 24 hours each day, 365 days a year. It is staffed by volunteer reserve Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies. The team’s calls typically involve distressed hikers who are lost or injured in the canyons, foothills and mountains north of Altadena.

Hikers’ predicaments are often predictable, as many are in poor physical condition and poorly prepared for wilderness treks, and often veer off designated trails. The rescued rarely are found with sufficient water or snacks.

“Often times cell phone coverage will go away so if you become lost and something prevents you from getting out in a timely manner, being prepared and bringing extra supplies is extremely helpful,” said Paige.

The team works to educate hikers, encouraging them to bring plenty of water and dress appropriately in the event that they find themselves in the unfortunate situation of isolation waiting for assistance that can sometimes stretch out for several hours and possibly into the night. Hikers are also urged to research the trails they plan on visiting beforehand.

Staying on the designated trail at all times is the most effective way to ensure a safe outing in the wilderness especially for places like the popular Eaton Canyon Nature Center which attracted 430,000 visitors in 2015.

“Everyone that’s ever been rescued out of Eaton Canyon has been someone that has veered off the designated trail,” said L.A. County Natural Areas Administrator Kim Bosell. “Staying on marked trails should be a number one priority for everyone who goes into the wilderness.”

“Even though it’s close to the city, it’s still the wilderness and you need to be careful,” said Bosell.

To download a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue Hiking Plan for your next trip into the wilderness, visit http://file.lacounty.gov/lasd/cms1_163961

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