041322-cr-searchandrescue

It’s all smiles for the crew at Teller County Search & Rescue as they welcome a new ATV, purchased with funds provided by Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.

Rescued from a lack of equipment, Teller County Search and Rescue just added a second ATV to the inventory.

Funded by a $12,010 grant from Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, the ATV will help to increase the organization’s response times.

For a nonprofit organization that relies on donations and grants to fund critical needs, the grant is timely.

“We get a lot of calls for rescues near Divide, so it’s important to have a second ATV,” said Heather Davis, public information officer for TCSAR.

Most of the rescues involve people who just want to get outside, especially in the time of the coronavirus pandemic that isn’t quite over yet. “This is a trend across our state,” said Lisa Matasso, who wrote the Firehouse grant. “Everybody is getting out, but they’re not prepared.”

Recently, Davis and Matasso were part of the crew responding to a 911 call from two hikers who started at the Crags and veered off trail, ending up in knee-deep snow near the summit of Pikes Peak at Devil’s Playground.

“There was a snowstorm the night before, so we hiked in snow drifts,” Davis said. “We couldn’t use snowmobiles or anything like it — we definitely had to hike.”

Against accepted practices, the hikers split up as one decided to return to the Crags trailhead.

Davis urged other in that situation: “Don’t split up — because now we’re looking for two hikers,” Davis said.

“Plus, they didn’t have cellphone batteries and they had called everybody they knew before they called 911.”

When the crews found one hiker, they covered him in warm gear for the trek down the mountain. Some crew members met the other hiker near the trailhead off South Colorado 67.

Davis said she suspects people might not realize that there is no charge for a rescue by the organization, which might cause them to hesitate to call for help.

“Delaying that call can cause serious injuries, such as hypothermia,” she said. “Conditions in the city do not reflect conditions in the high country.”

Some 911 calls find people in the darndest situations. Like the would-be hikers who followed GPS directions to a snow-packed dead end. “The GPS told them to turn left onto a Forest Service road, so they did,” Davis said. “But then they went down a smaller service road and couldn’t back out because the snow was too deep.”

The couple found cellphone coverage a few feet from the vehicle to call 911 and returned to wait for the rescue. “They left really good clues for us,” Davis said. “But following a GPS in the backcountry is not always a good idea.”

The crews are always ready to go — with warm gear and equipment in their vehicles. However, for most responses they meet at the headquarters, which they term “a little shed” in the yard adjacent to Teller County Regional Animal Shelter in Divide. “We’re trying to find land so that we can put a building on it to put our ATVs inside,” Davis said.

As of last week, crews from Teller County Search and Rescue had responded to seven calls for lost hikers and stranded vehicles this year. Over the years, the rescues have involved recovering bodies.

The crews are trained and in tip-top shape to tramp through snow and ice, carry people out on the litter and get them to safety via ATV.

“It’s nice to give peace of mind to the families of the rescued, that they know somebody is looking and helping them reunite with their loved ones,” Davis said. “We enjoy it, even though it’s not always 100% fun.”

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