When a Top-Notch All Volunteer Rescue Team Needs You, What Do You Do?
As firefighters struggled in their heavy turnouts to save the victims, they in turn were almost injured. They didn’t have the equipment and the training to help in this situation, Totten said. “We asked ourselves, ‘How much danger do you put a volunteer firefighter in to try and rescue other people?’…That was when the thought of Southern Humboldt County Technical Rescue began.”
For 13 years, that all volunteer organization has rescued people in the area. “They get 25 or 30 calls a year which involve a real high level of skill and equipment that firefighters don’t normally always carry,” explained Totten a spokesperson for the group. “The team is very dedicated it takes a lot of time and training.”
Genario Gray rescues three dogs this last December. [All photos provided by SHTR]
Redheaded Blackbelt has covered a few of their rescues. This last year, they’ve rescued dogs trapped by rising water in a vehicle in December. In November they helped rescue a family of lost hikers. In October, they recovered a seriously injured man who had fallen over a steep embankment in Redway. In July, they rescued a fall victim from north of Needle Rock.
One of their most dramatic rescues occurred in April 2015. A man running the Lost Coast Trail fell down a cliff and landed in the rocks near Miller Flat. He was badly injured.
He had multiple fractures including a broken back, fractured shoulder, a fractured femur, a fractured arm, multiple fractured ribs, a fractured ankle and a punctured lung. Locals rescued him from the incoming tide….Helicopters couldn’t get in because of the fog. A team [from Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue] had to pack him out in a Stokes litter. They walked for hours carrying him. It took 12 hours from the start of the rescue until we got him in a helicopter. There was no time to take a break because he could die if they didn’t get him to help.
The victim, Totten said, couldn’t believe that volunteers would dedicate that much energy and effort to saving him. “Those kind of calls…there is not anyone else to do them. Not only does the team do them but they do them with professionalism….A lot of communities don’t have groups like this. If you ever found yourself in a predicament, you would be glad to look up and see these folks.”
Totten explains that it takes a lot to train, supply and build a team. Crew members have to be able to trust that their mates will correctly tie the knots on the ropes that pull them up cliffs. “In tech rescue, you have to be 100% every time,” she explained. “There is not a lot of things that require you to be 100% but there is no margin of error for tech rescue.”
Crew members develop a deep trust for each other, she said. “How many times have you looked at someone and [said] if that knot is done wrong, I’ll die…but I trust them and I’m going? They’ve got to do that.”
The team is looking for more members. “We encourage other volunteer firefighters to join the team,” Totten said. “The team could always use more help but we only take firefighters.” Totten noted that there are already several women on the team besides herself but there is definitely room for more.
Totten tells us that on June 3rd, this crew is having a fundraiser at the Garberville town square from 12-8 p.m. “Tech rescue isn’t something you can nickle and dime,” she explained. “You need the best equipment.”
They are asking for the community’s help so that in turn they can be there to help the community. If you’d like to support them, she suggested, stop by, listen to some music, eat some BBQ, and thank a few heroes by donating a little cash.