Donated snowmobiles will aid backcountry rescues |

Donated snowmobiles will aid backcountry rescues

A North Tahoe business owner recently made a contribution that will cut time and increase convenience for backcountry rescues.

Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours owner Dave Ceruti donated two snowmobiles and a rescue sled to the North Tahoe Fire Protection District last month. Not only did Ceruti contribute a rescue package worth more than $12,000, he has also offered to gas, maintain and store the snowmobiles at the summit of Highway 267.

“There’s really no [other] way for the fire department to get any help,” Ceruti said. “I have a responsibility to my clients to take care of them if something goes wrong. That’s the No. 1 thing.”

As more snowmobilers, snowshoers and cross country skiers enjoy the backcountry, the fire district receives more calls for help. Fire districts are responsible for treating sick and injured people in known locations. When a search is involved, they call upon trained search and rescue teams.

“The search aspect is a different animal,” said Truckee Fire Protection District Chief Bryce Keller.

In the past few years North Tahoe Fire has had to be creative with backcountry rescue methods. They have used employees’ personal snowmobiles or have solicited the help of local snowmobile companies.

“We’ve had accidents and we’ve needed to get to the backcountry. We’ve always been lucky to have people around and available to assist. Now, with these snowmobiles, it will really help us,” said North Tahoe Fire captain Ray O’Brien.

Last winter West Shore residents Carol Kennedy and Marty Phayre headed toward Page Meadows on cross country skis. Part-way into their excursion Kennedy fell down and couldn’t move. Her body temperature immediately dropped and she was in a significant amount of pain. North Tahoe Fire responded to the emergency call and was lucky to have a personal snowmobile on hand to rescue Kennedy from a broken hip and freezing weather. If they had not had access to O’Brien’s snowmobile, the story could have ended differently.

“If they hadn’t come up there to get me out of there? I don’t know how it would have been done without [snowmobiles],” said Kennedy. “He was there within 15 minutes.”

Not only will Ceruti’s donation aid the North Shore fire district for rescues, but Placer County sheriff’s department has also made their snowmobile and rescue sled available.

“We’ve had to improvise,” O’Brien said. “But now we have our own and the use of the sheriff’s (sled) and it makes it that much easier.”

Truckee Fire has two snowmobiles kept at the Soda Springs station and a trailer to transport the machines as needed.

Fortunately, neither the Truckee or North Tahoe fire districts have to respond to backcountry rescues often. But being prepared is still a necessity.

“That’s the trick to [backcountry rescues],” said Keller. “It’s low frequency and high risk. So it’s important to have the tools necessary to get the job done.”

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