SALT LAKE CITY — As more and more hikers are needing to be rescued from the wilderness across the country, the Salt Lake County Search and Rescue team has had a record year for rescues in 2017.
Wayne Bassham, commander of Salt Lake County Search and Rescue, said he and his team of 34 volunteers have completed an all-time high of 80 rescues so far this year. That number will continue until Dec. 31.
“Every year they’re going up and up and up,” Bassham said.
In 2016, the number of rescues was 65 — a record at the time — and before that, the typical number each year was around 50, according to officials.
Bassham said there are several reasons for the rise in rescues.
“Number one is the population,” he said. “So, if you look at all the homes and all the buildings in the Salt Lake Valley, it’s bringing more and more people into the valley.”
Another reason is that some people decide to go hiking on a whim and aren’t prepared physically or have the right amount of gear. But really, it could happen to anyone, Bassham added.
“The guys who are experts, the guys who are great climbers, the guys who have been climbing forever and ever — they can have an ‘oh crap’ moment,” he said.
Mike Finger has been a volunteer rescuer with the team for 20 years and has assisted with more than 500 rescues. He said despite how busy the job keeps him, he’s glad when people call for help.
“Knowing that someone is going to be able to go home to their kids, hopefully alive, is very rewarding,” he said. “Or getting somebody out that’s badly injured in the backcountry knowing I made a difference.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the Salt Lake County Search and Rescue team can visit the sheriff’s official website.