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Upgrades to Summit County Rescue Barn allow for faster search-and-rescue deployment and improved training opportunities
Contact:Erin Opsahl, Summit County Sheriff’s Office: 970-423-8901Charles Pitman, Summit County Rescue Group: 970-333-9856SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County announced the grand reopening of the Summit County Rescue Barn, which recently received upgrades that will allow for faster deployment of search-and-rescue teams, as well as improved training conditions for volunteers.
In mid-November, workers completed a $60,000 winterization of the Rescue Barn, located on the Summit County Commons campus in Frisco. The facility houses vehicles and equipment used by Summit County Rescue Group on upwards of 70 local search-and-rescue missions per year. Prior to the improvements, the metal-walled building was not insulated or heated.
“This project is a real game changer for Summit County Rescue Group,” SCRG President Ben Butler said. “We’re extremely grateful to the Board of County Commissioners and Summit County Sheriff’s Office for making this possible. Having a four-season, insulated facility will enable us to respond to backcountry emergencies more quickly, prolong the life of our equipment and enhance our year-round training opportunities.”
In the past, snowmobiles and other equipment stored in the Rescue Barn would often freeze to their trailers after rescue missions, when snow and ice that had collected in snowmobile tracks and runners melted and refroze. When this occurred, rescue volunteers spent considerable time dislodging the sleds during a subsequent deployment.
Cold temperatures inside the uninsulated barn could cause difficulty for snowmobile starts and reduce battery life. Temperature-sensitive medication and supplies could not be stored inside the barn, requiring crews to haul them back and forth between missions. Washing vehicles, snowmobiles and trailers between winter missions was often impractical, as they could not fully dry afterward in the cold barn.
“We’re very fortunate to have such a strong working relationship between the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the Summit County Rescue Group,” Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said. “Together, we’re proud to provide this essential service to Summit County’s residents and visitors. And we’re excited to make these improvements to the Rescue Barn, because they’ll translate to immediate improvements in search and rescue operations.”
Summit County Rescue Group has more than 60 active members and receives about 175 calls per year. The all-volunteer nonprofit operates under the statutory authority of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office to provide backcountry search-and-rescue services within the county. Missions include response for missing or injured backcountry skiers, snowboarders, climbers, snowmobilers, boaters, hikers, mountain bikers, ATV riders and other recreators and backcountry travelers.
Summit County Rescue Group volunteers train extensively to hone skills such as high-angle alpine rescue and swift water rescue. In June 2018, the organization will undergo a recertification process, which it must successfully complete once every five years. The new heating and insulation in the Rescue Barn will allow members to use the facility as a training space year-round.
“These dedicated volunteers do remarkable, vitally important work here in Summit County,” County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said. “The demands on their services just keep growing, and they’ve responded with continued growth in volunteer numbers, capabilities and skills. So we’re very glad to be able to support them through these improvements to the Summit County Rescue Barn. We’re also really pleased that we were able to complete the project before the start of the winter season.”
During the grand re-opening ceremony, Summit County Rescue Group unveiled its new “Rescue 2” rescue coordination vehicle, which serves as a mobile command post and transports a snowmobile, an ATV, gear, equipment and rescued people. The new truck has more gear-storage capacity than the vehicle it is replacing, which had logged 100,000 miles. It also has a heated radio compartment, which prolongs the battery life of handheld radios in the field. Breckenridge Grand Vacations supported the purchase of the truck with a $20,000 donation. The old Rescue 2 will find a home at Park County Search and Rescue.
“This was a great opportunity for us to make a much-needed upgrade, while paying it forward by helping out our neighboring community,” FitzSimons said.
The new improvements to the Summit County Rescue Barn will extend the useful life of the facility, as the County implements the Summit County Commons Campus Master Plan over the next 20 years.