Yavapai County tops state in search-and-rescue

Sheriff's units perform 22% of all missions in Arizona

PRESCOTT - The Yavapai County Sheriff's search-and-rescue (SAR) units were tasked to perform 22 percent of all such missions in Arizona in Fiscal Year 2015-16, making them the busiest in the state.

The 106 search-and-rescue operations the all-volunteer units undertook meant they donated more than 5,200 hours of their time.

"A side benefit to the work of these incredible volunteers is the thousands of dollars in savings to taxpayers," YCSO spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said.

A major factor in many search missions is the Rescue-1 helicopter, which Sheriff Scott Mascher points out is operated at no cost to the county - or taxpayers - through the use of drug seizure funds.

The YCSO operates a Jeep Posse, Air Group, and Yavapai County Mounted Sheriff's Posse.

And the Sheriff's Response Team consists of Southern Yavapai County Search and Rescue Team; Backcountry unit, including a Swiftwater Rescue Team; Search Dog unit; 4x4 unit; Mounted unit; and Quad unit.

Among the approximately 350 volunteers who make up these teams is Dan Hughart. He's a member of the Backcountry unit, Swiftwater Rescue team, and the helicopter aircrew.

The 26-year-old has been involved with the SAR teams for five years.

He's a busy man.

"Between Thursday (July 14) at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 4 p.m., I had worked 40 hours of search and rescue," he said.

He spends his own money to equip himself for the missions, a fairly large expense, and training costs time and money as well.

But it's worth it, he said, recalling a September 2015 rescue in which a hiker fell in the Granite Basin area, impaling himself on an agave plant.

"I flew up with (a DPS helicopter) to a location near the subject, and made contact," he said. "He was laying down, pretty much immobile," with puncture wounds in his chest.

"I prepared the victim for a short-haul extraction," which means the injured man would be carried in a Stokes basket below the helicopter by a rope, along with Hughart dangling beside him.

"They came in and picked us up and flew us to (Granite Basin) Lake," where a medical helicopter was waiting.

The time and expense are worth it, he said, when they save a life.

"It's all about the look and the expression of gratitude we get when we rescue someone or find somebody," Hughart said. "Just that good feeling that, these people, as soon as they see you, the relief on their face that they instantly have."

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