Their motto is “Available 24/7/365 so others may live.”
On any given day or night, Nevada County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue volunteers can be called out to help search for a missing hiker, biker or snowboarder in the county’s backcountry.
But it is just as likely that team members could be called out to the comparatively more urban regions of Grass Valley or Alta Sierra to help find a child or an Alzheimer’s patient, or, as happened recently, a suicidal subject who was thought to have gone into the woods.
Even though the team works under the auspices of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, the organization is actually a nonprofit whose dedicated volunteers put in untold hours of training and frequently pay for equipment out of their own pockets.
“It’s crazy how much they do,” said Sheriff’s Sgt. Sam Brown, who serves as the liaison between the team and the Sheriff’s Office.
These dedicated volunteers put in an average of 20 to 50 hours per month, not including the required 60-plus hours of training required to become “mission-ready.” Specialty training requires an additional 40-plus hours.
On top of the training requirements, most members furnish their own equipment at an approximate expense of about $1,500. Volunteers are required to drive between 2,000 and 15,000 miles each year for search and rescue-related activities, which can cost upward of $4,000 in fuel.
All of this work is paid for through donations — which is why the team puts on a Stuff the Pack fundraiser every year.
This year, Stuff the Pack will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at a number of locations throughout the county — at the Pine Creek Center, Fowler Center, Gold Country Center, at SPD Markets in Nevada City and Grass Valley, Kmart, Rite-Aid, Grocery Outlet and the CVS pharmacy on Combie Road. Volunteers will be on hand to answer questions, along with the K-9s and handlers.
Equipment will also be on display.
Last year, the fundraiser netted $16,000, noted Volunteer Coordinator Del Clement, adding, “The community was very generous.”
The team was able to purchase a 26-foot “bare-bones” trailer that members turned into a command center with computer equipment and radio systems at a cost of about $20,000.
This year, thanks to the funds already raised in Truckee in February, the team was able to purchase a Polaris Ranger UTV, a multipassenger ATV, for $13,000.
The team only numbered 25 when Clement joined in 2001; it grew from 98 volunteers last year to 120 this year.
“It’s lot more organized (now), with the ability to respond more effectively,” he said.
In the dozen years that Clement has been on the team, the biggest change, not surprisingly, has been technology — which he sees as a big plus.
“It helps people not need us as much — and when they do call 911, we can get a good fix on where they are,” Clement said.
“It’s (become) more rescue, rather than search.”
For more information, check out the organization’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NCSSAR?fref=ts.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.