Search and Rescue hunts for a new truck
October 10, 2007
Only a few inches of snow have hit the ground in the Tahoe Basin so far this year, but the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team is well under way with preparations for the coming season. One of the most critical preseason tasks is the teams planned purchase of a heavy duty truck to transport the teams snowcat to rescues. The snowcat leased from the Tahoe City Public Utility District for an annual fee of $1 is their most crucial piece of equipment during a rescue, said Scoop Remenih, a team member since 1980.The snowcat will carry up to eight rescuers to locations where skis, snowmobiles and helicopters cannot go, he said.The primary point of the team definitely are the skiers, Remenih said. This is just a tool to get the skiers in and out, along with the victim.One of the most precarious tasks in a rescue is simply transporting the snowcat from its garage in Tahoe City to the base of operations for a given rescue.In past years, the team has towed the 4-ton machine on a flatbed behind a Chevy Suburban, a technique that works on nice summer days, but isnt adequate under hairy, winter conditions with winds and black ice, Remenih said.And believe me, Ive towed that trailer and its really a life experience, he said.But the arduous towing job has always been worthwhile to a rescue, Remenih said recalling driving the snowcat in blinding conditions using only a navigational computer program for direction.To offset the risk of an accident or collision en route to a rescue, the team is seeking out a carrier truck with a roll-on flatbed.When we get on the hill, there is definite peril and great risk at times, Remenih said. Those we just have to deal with …Theres not a lot you can do except [rely] on experience and skill to offset and avoid avalanche zones, and pick a safe route in and out. But transporting the snowcat is a given. In this sense, we have a predictable risk that were trying to mitigate and minimize.The volunteer, nonprofit search and rescue team has one traditional fundraiser a year, the annual Great Ski Race. But to purchase the $65,000 four-wheel-drive Ford 550 , the team is hosting a reception at the Lahontan community in Truckee on Tuesday. Ticket proceeds and donations will contribute toward the purchase.The Tahoe Search and Rescue Team has rescued 270 individuals in Tahoes wilderness since 1976. And in the groups 30-year history, only three people have died after the team received the emergency call, Remenih said.In other words, in the process of searching, we didnt get to them quick enough, he said.The team will go out under any condition, be it bluebird skies or a windy whiteout. Most of their rescues are within a 50-mile radius of Tahoe and Truckee.The team started out with five members, and its ranks now include more than 100 volunteers. Theres not too many things I can say about what we do that are predictable or usual, Remenih said, noting that the most typical and common rescue conditions occur on weekend nights with bad weather.Everyone [on the team] is risking their lives to save someone else, said Kathy Carroll, who is coordinating the event. Its so hard to find people like that today. … When you see groups like this where theyre out for someone else to me, thats a great thing.