Dec 28, 2012 at 11:32 pm #1297459
I have a question regarding who pays for SAR in the Angeles National Forest. A hiker in the Angeles National Forest is forced to call for emergency help through 911 after sliding down an embankment, and is uninjured but unable to safely return to the trail. 911 connects them to County Sheriff and a rescue helicopter is brought in to hoist the hiker back to safety. Is the hiker responsible for the SAR costs? Or is the extraction covered by the Federal government since the extraction occurred on a National Park?Dec 28, 2012 at 11:43 pm #1938992
You might first consider that the Angeles National Forest is not a national park. A national forest is part of the Department of Agriculture. A national park is part of the Department of the Interior. Two completely different areas of government that have different methods. Further, a county sheriff has nothing to do with federal government and answers only to county government.
–B.G.–Dec 28, 2012 at 11:47 pm #1938994
Does anyone have knowledge of whether or not the extracted hiker would be required by the County to reimburse the cost of the extraction?Dec 28, 2012 at 11:55 pm #1938995
It is kind of a crapshoot. Some counties are so strapped for cash that they will send a rescue bill to anybody that they can find. Other counties will cut some slack to the rescuee if they weren't doing anything wrong, but they just had some bad luck.
A friend of mine had to be rescued last summer. The rescue pickup was in Forest Service jurisdiction, but the county sheriff's helicopter came from another county. For some reason yet to be determined, they dropped the rescuee elsewhere, not for medical care as they should have, so they did not gather any personal information on the rescuee, so there was no bill.
–B.G.–Dec 29, 2012 at 12:03 am #1938996
The rescue helicopter responding to the Angeles National Forest extraction reportedly came from Lancaster. If made to pay, does anyone have an idea as to the potential cost the hiker might be made to pay? Not only was a helicopter involved, but several fire trucks, EMT vehicles, and other Fire service vehicles.Dec 29, 2012 at 12:11 am #1938998
Several several thousands of dollars is not uncommon for a bill.
I don't know how they can force you to pay. You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip.
It might depend on how the rescue request was made and by whom.
Sometimes a military helicopter is used, and the flight crew can chalk it up as a training mission, so there is no bill.
–B.G.–Dec 29, 2012 at 12:37 am #1939001
The below link, pg 32 of the PDF, indicates the rescue helicopter might've been LA County Fire.
"Several several thousands of dollars…"
That's intimidating.Dec 29, 2012 at 9:43 am #1939059
Found out that LA County Fire Air Operations does not send out a bill to the rescue victims.Dec 29, 2012 at 10:52 am #1939073
Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
This is what was taught years ago in a outdoor leadership class led by a backcountry ranger for the Stanislaus NF. In the State of California, on National Park lands, the Park Service takes the lead on SAR and on US National Forest including Wilderness Areas, the local county takes the lead, most of the time it is the County Sheriff but the local agencies have a mutual aid pacts coordinated by the State so the exact responder group can vary by region.
From the California Gov site
Search and rescue missions are not confined to jurisdictional boundaries and are often life threatening; thus, the Law Enforcement Division coordinates mutual aid for search and rescue operations in California. To elevate the capabilities of local jurisdictions in managing search and rescue missions, the Law Enforcement Division conducts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (P.O.S.T.) approved courses on managing search and rescue operations. More information is available in the Law Division's Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Plan SAR Annex.
This came up in the Q&A session about which agency do you call to start a SAR. The instructor said to call the local County Sheriff when in State Parks or on US National Forest Lands and the Park Service when in a National Park. He said if you call 911 from a trailhead in the Sierras or the Trinity Alps, you might end up with a dispatcher in San Francisco or Los Angeles who is not aware of the exact mutual aid SAR details in each County which could cause delay.Dec 29, 2012 at 11:12 am #1939076
Yes, the actual SAR responders will vary depending on the jurisdiction and whom the 911 dispatcher can find. That depends somewhat on the urgency of the rescue. If there were an urgent medical emergency, they might grab the first helicopter crew that they can find. If it were a lost adult during nice weather, they might not shake out the helicopter crew until foot teams were giving up.
–B.G.–Jan 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm #1940612
Mike OxfordBPL Member
@moxfordLocale: Silicon Valley, CA
Yes, you can call the Sheriff's office first, as SAR teams are all county-based. They will request mutual aid through the state offices if they need additional resources, which then contacts the other counties.
If you call 911 you end up "somewhere in the system" and while they're good, they won't respond nearly as well as calling the SO directly.
The best is to call the rangers, who'll have that information and work closely with the SO offices all the time. If you call the rangers, they'll usually start the process even faster while the ball gets rolling with the SO. If you call SO directly they'll usually loop in the rangers first anyways since they're closer, familiar with the area and can respond more quickly and efficiently. If the rangers call the SO, it'll carry a little more "weight" than random citizen X calling it in, and they'll give the SO better details since they know the area very very well.
Better: Sheriff's Office
Weather, location and situation, though, do make a difference as to how fast and hard everyone responds, as BG points out. Sometimes all it takes is Rangers + SAR dog teams and a general callout isn't required.
-moxJan 3, 2013 at 5:59 pm #1940647
Nico .BPL Member
@nickbLocale: Los Padres National Forest
In my local NF which is just up the road from Angeles NF, I believe SAR typically does not charge for the costs of rescues. This might differ in the event of frivolous call-outs, but at least in legitimate rescue situations, there is no charge. The tab for any resources spent on the rescue is picked up by the taxpayers.
That being said, many of the County SAR teams operate on a volunteer basis out of the County Sheriffs office; presumably the volunteer labor helps to defray some of the costs to the public. The members of the SAR teams also often pay for their own gear/training and/or rely on grants and donations from the community to help cover their equipment and operating costs. This has become especially true in recent years with County govt feeling the squeeze with reduced revenues and less General Fund monies to tap into for these sorts of "special" government services.
When the choppers get involved, different agencies will often use the rescue mission as a training exercise; whether it be County Sherrif or Fire, CalFire, CFD, Air National Guard, etc. Mutual Aid Agreements are in place for surrounding areas and agencies to help out on large-scale search efforts as well.
If you end up a victim and require rescuing, I'd strongly encourage you to, at minimum, consider a donation to the responding SAR agency for saving your bacon. Like I said, a lot of the SAR folks are out there risking their own personal safety on a volunteer basis as their own form of civic duty. They'd appreciate the support.Jan 7, 2013 at 6:43 am #1941403
Terry SparksBPL Member
@firebugLocale: Santa Barbara County Coast
As a Fire Fighter for L.A. County Fire Dept. for the past 33 years, I have some knowldge of this. What will happen in a situation such as you describe is this: L.A. County S.O. has a contract with Angeles Forest for all SAR that provides for the Sherriff's Air Rescue 5 Helicopter (usually staged at Barley Flats off Hwy 2) to respond, along with Sherriff's ground SAR units and one L.A. Co. Fire engine to the call. If Sherriff's Air 5 is unavalable, you will get one of the L.A. Co. Fire Dept. Helicopters responding in it's place. The cost of the rescue is covered 100% by the contract with Angeles N.F. and the tax payers. L.A. County does not charge for any emergency service of any kind, but many of the incorporated cities within the county do charge for certain things, such as the city of L.A.
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