December was a busy month for the Grant County Sheriff’s Office’s Search and Rescue team, with six days on missions in brutally cold conditions and two days with debriefing after a tough mission on Fields Peak.
Deputy Dave Dobler, the county’s Search and Rescue coordinator, updated the county court on the team’s achievements and presented grant and fundraising proposals May 8. Dobler, who joined the sheriff’s office eight months ago, also provided a detailed list of SAR needs.
“The categories of missions SAR has conducted and will likely conduct will require more specialized training and equipment,” he told the court.
Dobler said he expected to see more recreational visitors in Grant County as the Central Oregon areas have become more populated. He also noted that his SAR team spent three months planning and preparing for the May 11 evacuation exercise around Galena.
The SAR team responded to numerous flooding threats in April, including three days for Canyon Creek, one day in Mitchell and one day in Mt. Vernon. A recent mission was providing mutual aid for a lost hiker in the Black Canyon Wilderness on April 20.
The team also presented information to students at Humbolt Elementary in May.
Dobler listed improvements to the SAR program since he took over. These included monthly meetings with detailed agendas, monthly trainings focused on basic SAR skills, increased communications between SAR team members, closer coordination with various partners such as air search and amateur radio operators, better communication with 911 dispatch, increased SAR recruitment and new efforts to find revenue sources, such as fundraisers and grants.
Equipment needs cited by Dobler include a four-by-four off-road wheeled or tracked vehicle, off-trail snowmobiles, a lightweight litter for steep slopes, a lightweight rescue sled for snow, rope rescue equipment, handheld radios, iPads for mapping or mission planning and additional medical gear, including an automatic external defibrillator. He noted that Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management personnel use iPads for maps.
Dobler told the court he’s been looking for revenue sources that don’t require a match from the county, such as fundraisers and grants. The Oregon Community Foundation can provide grants up to $15,000, and grants from the Firehouse Subs Foundation range from $15,000 to $25,000, large enough to cover the cost of the four-by-four vehicle, Dobler said. He said he also is looking at a USDA Rural Development grant that could require a match.