'Outdoor activities are inherently dangerous': Calls for search and rescue increase

In July, volunteers hosted their first ever Explorer Post Youth Academy. Fourteen teens as young as 14 years old learned what it takes to be a SAR volunteer, from helicopter safety to navigation skills. Volunteers must pass a "pack test" and be able to walk two miles carrying a 20-pound backpack in 30 minutes.

EUGENE, Ore. - Search and rescue crews around the Pacific Northwest have had a busy summer.

In Lane County, calls for service have more than doubled over the last three years, from approximately 80 calls in 2015 to nearly 200 calls, according to Search and Rescue Coordinator Tim Chase.

"It's not uncommon to get five calls a day," Chase said.

During the summer, the majority of calls are for water rescues, but many calls are for lost or injured hikers, Chase said. Chase linked the increase in calls to the rise of social media.

"They're seeing things on social media and they want to go out and see it for themselves," Chase said. "So with the increase in exposure to those kinds of things, more people go hiking, they go out on trails, and sometimes those people aren't really prepared."

"I've ran into multiple people that are out of water, out of food, and they still have 8 or 10 miles to go," said avid hiker Kellen Morgan.

Morgan said he has noticed trails in Oregon becoming increasingly crowded.

"With Instagram and social media, all these people go to these cool places and then tag them," Morgan said.

The sheriff urges hikers to carry the proper equipment while hiking.

The "Ten Essentials" are food, water, shelter, navigation, insulation, tools, a first aid kit, illumination, a fire starting tool and sun protection.

"Outdoor activities are inherently dangerous," Chase said.

Chase said the biggest mistake hikers make is not what they forget to bring with them, it is what they forget to leave behind: a trip plan.

"Let somebody responsible know where you're going, when you plan to be back, and when they should call for help if you don't return," Chase said.

Lane County currently has nearly 200 search and rescue volunteers that donate a minimum of 30 hours a year.

In July, volunteers hosted their first ever Explorer Post Youth Academy. Fourteen teens as young as 14 years old learned what it takes to be a SAR volunteer, from helicopter safety to navigation skills. Volunteers must pass a "pack test" and be able to walk two miles carrying a 20-pound backpack in 30 minutes.

"They do the same jobs that our adults do in real-life saving missions," Chase said. "It's a lot of responsibility. And they rise to the occasion."

Lane County Search and Rescue is gearing up for their recruitment season in the fall. Volunteers must complete 130 hours of training. To learn more, visit the sheriff's website.

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