The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office is on track to have a record number of search and rescue operations in northern Arizona this year.
The Search and Rescue Unit has responded to 113 incidents so far this year. That’s more than they’ve had in recent years. The unit is made up of deputies and more than 100 volunteers.
About half of the calls were from stranded hikers. “The percentage of rescues has gone up most likely due to cell phones,” said Aaron Dick Search and Rescue Coordinator. “We are getting coordinates from most 911 calls and that basically eliminates the searching and turns the mission into a rescue since we know where the subject is and our response is to get to their location and assist them in getting out safely.”
Sheriff Jim Driscoll said the unit responds to everything from children getting lost to weekend warriors driving off road and getting stuck in the snow.
“We get a variety of calls,” Driscoll said. “People skiing out of bounds — they see the road down below or the highway and think they can ski down to it or snowboard to it not anticipating the terrain they have to go through to get there and they get stuck. And we’ve had as many as three different searches going on at the same time in different corners of the county.”
Coconino is the second largest county in the U.S., so Driscoll said that stretches their deputies and volunteers very thin.