Who We Are
Chaffee County Search and Rescue – North (CCSAR-N) is an organization made up of volunteers who move at a moment’s notice to help folks who find themselves in unfortunate situations.
CCSAR-N has been in operation in one form or another since 1964, with several original members currently serving today. Members serve at the request of the sheriff’s office, who is legally in charge of all SAR operations in the county. The number of missions vary from year to year, but 60 active call-outs per year is not uncommon.
82% of Chaffee County’s natural & beautiful land is public, attracting visitors from all over to hunt, fish, snowmobile, ATV, mountain bike, climb, hike the Colorado Trail, backpack, run rapids, and summit fourteeners. These recreational opportunities are accessed by a broad spectrum of enthusiasts; people of all ages including ultra-athletes, out-of-state visitors from sea level, and everything in between.
Plans for an awesome day in the backcountry don’t always go as planned… falls, accidents, getting lost, avalanches, and medical emergencies befall travelers in our county and it is CCSAR-N’s job to locate, access, stabilize and transport them back to more advanced care.
CCSAR-N is 100% volunteer. The members are not only out in the field on missions, but must raise funds (through grants, donations, and serving at events) for training and equipment to effectively execute those missions. Members donate their fuel and personal vehicle costs, as well as many, many hours of time. Members are responsible for providing their own personal backcountry gear which is required before going into the field. Beyond personal gear, SAR missions require highly specialized equipment and vehicles. Many missions in Chaffee County require driving long miles of 4WD roads just to access the trailhead(s). Having reliable vehicles to transport members and gear is extremely important. The team must also have ATVs, snowmobiles, and swiftwater vehicles just to access subjects, much less equipment to transport the subject(s) out. Technical and medical equipment must be purchased, maintained and regularly replaced to ensure safety for members and subjects.
Every CCSAR-N member must complete SAR Academy, which includes all necessary training to prepare for the wide spectrum of missions in Chaffee County. Every member must also have Basic First Aid and CPR training (though many have higher level medical certification), and complete ICS 100 and 700. Most participate in special helicopter “lift ticket” training from Flight for Life, which allows several members to be flown in to the backcountry to respond quickly to a severely injured party. The “lifted”SAR members are; however, responsible for hiking back out. In addition to the general training all members are required to have, CCSAR-N has highly trained special operations teams who execute high-angle, swiftwater and avalanche rescues. There are members who are proficient in four wheel driving, ATV and dirt-bike and snowmobile operating, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, summer and winter mountaineering, rock climbing, Class IV-V kayaking and rafting, avalanche hazard evaluation, and more. CCSAR-N’s membership includes volunteers with special training in lost person behavior, tracking, locating downed aircraft, special radio communications, and incident command structure.
CCSAR-N is an associate member of the Mountain Rescue Association and is in the training process to become a fully accredited member.
Members who respond to missions are required to be prepared to be in the backcountry for 24 hours or more, in any weather, at any altitude; with missions lasting anywhere from a couple of hours to days. All search and rescue is done FREE of cost to the lost and/or injured subject(s).
CCSAR-N is an associate member of the Mountain Rescue Association and is in the process of training to be a fully accredited member.
Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) Card:
• These cards will allow the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to reimburse SAR for any expenses incurred on your behalf.
• Purchase a Colorado SAR card at the Department of Wildlife, Some sporting stores sell these cards. Also, fishing, hunting, snowmobile, and ATV licenses provide this coverage.
In Case of Emergency, Call 911
• Report what happened and exactly where.
• Identify the point of last seen.
• Cell phones may not always work in the back country.
Chaffee County Search and Rescue (SAR):
In Chaffee County there are two SAR’s, one based in Buena Vista and the other based in Salida & Poncha Springs, hence the names SAR-North and SAR-South.
SAR-N and SAR-S are part of the county Sheriff’s department and are activated when the Sheriff determines it is necessary to meet some emergency or situation. Members of SAR are volunteers, who are at a minimum certified in basic first aid and CPR and search and rescue methodology.
SAR-N and SAR-S are sustained by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the Sheriff’s department and by raising funds through service projects and donations.
Places to get information:
• U.S. Forest Service
• Colorado State Forest Service
• Colorado Division of Wildlife
• Visitor Centers
• Salida or Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce
• Outdoor specialty shops.