FULLERTON (CBSLA) — A 225% increase in rescue calls has prompted Orange County’s fire authority and sheriff’s department to issue a joint, public plea – please be more prepared when going out hiking.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said that with gyms closed and options for exercise limited, more people are on hiking trails. With the combination of excessive heat and more people in Orange County’s popular hiking trails, both agencies have seen a record number of search and rescue calls.
Since May, helicopter rescue crews from both agencies have responded to an average of 225% more remote rescue calls in the same period the last two years. Some of the calls are far from emergencies, Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy said.
“Some simply wanted water, or they didn’t want to walk back from their hike,” Fennessy said. “These don’t constitute genuine emergencies that require a helicopter.”
However, if crews don’t respond to the calls, they can turn into genuine emergencies, he said.
“Just the other day, we were out on the San Juan Trail, where three hikers who had said they were lost and stranded,” OCFA firefighter Dan Dufrene, a member of one of the agency’s helicopter crews, said. “Turns out, when we actually made access to them, all they needed was water.”
Deputy Drew McMillan, a paramedic and a co-pilot on one of the sheriff’s department’s helicopters, said that people should make sure they have water and a fully charged cell phone, and let their friends and loved ones know where they are going. In the event a rescue is needed, hikers should wear bright colors that are easily seen against wildland landscapes and know the trail name or a local landmark.
But the most important thing is to hydrate, McMillan emphasized.
“If you think it’s enough, it’s probably not enough,” he said. “Bring more.”