THE SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS has recently confirmed what we knew all along. The Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team is one of the best. We say that because the board passed a resolution commending our SAR team for their assistance during the Camp Fire in November of 2018, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. More than 80 people died and 19,000 homes were lost in the area of Paradise, California.

Members of the team, led by Deputy Josh Beene, volunteered to respond to the area and for the next six days, documented burned buildings, searched for human remains, noted hazards and detailed valuables left behind. It was a grim task, to say the least. But our SAR team members are professionally trained for any event. And their professionalism showed. Even Butte County, where the wildfire left so much death and destruction, recognized our SAR team members for their selfless efforts.

It’s important to note, every member on that team is a volunteer. They’re not paid. Not one dime. They must leave family, friends, homes and businesses behind while they do the work that is so desperately needed in times of crisis. They’re on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They answer the call and sometimes, like with the wildfire, they are gone for days on end. Again, they don’t get paid. They serve a higher purpose. To help in times of great need.

What’s interesting is the fact that everything they did in Butte County is not usually the task they’re assigned. Members provide the knowledge and skills to conduct searches for missing people. “Search and Rescue” means the acts of searching for, rescuing, or recovering by means of ground, marine, or air activity any person who becomes lost or injured while outdoors, or as a result of a natural or man-made disaster. This could be anyone from an elderly person with dementia who walks away from their home to the hiker who gets lost while on one of the County’s scenic trails.

Besides looking for missing people, another major component is searching for evidence in criminal cases. Sometimes there will be a need to have SAR members search an area for a weapon that may have been used in the commission of a crime like an assault or homicide. Or the item might be a small piece of evidence that ties the suspect to the crime. It may be tiny like a bullet fragment or a small article of clothing. It really is like looking for a needle in a haystack. This is where SAR members put their skills to the test. They will set up a grid pattern and conduct a very thorough search of the area. Using their extensive training, expertise, equipment and sometimes with the help of a SAR K9, they usually find what many would believe could not be found.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in, here’s a little bit of information to help you decide. Individuals interested in joining the SAR must have their Emergency Medical Response card, be CPR certified and be 18 years of age prior to officially joining the team. Search and Rescue meets the first Tuesday of every month at the Sheriff’s Honor Farm on Oklahoma Ave, and meetings are open to the public. I hope you’ll consider joining this great team of volunteers who do such great work.