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Trail Teams: The value of the rescuers

Recreational rescue is a year-found avocation.

The community owes thanks to Hood River Crag Rats and other rescue organizations, along with law enforcement and local, state and federal forest and recreation personnel, who selflessly act when climbers fall, hikers get lost or hurt, or wildfires break out.

We echo the plaudits of such groups as Cascade Locks citizens, Insitu, and others who have recently hosted events serving as tangible acts of gratitude to first responders.

As winter approaches, a new set of dangers and challenges await, not the least is the fire-related closure of Eagle Creek recreation areas, as reported on page A1 by Patrick Mulvihill. For their own safety, and for the safety of public servants, until further notice people need to stay away from the area, and officials are correct in stepping up citations.

Think back to Sept. 2, when the Eagle Creek disaster first unfolded; that night, 150 or so hikers pulled an all-nighter, with essential help from rescuers, after getting trapped by fire that cut them off from the trailhead.

All but a few of those hikers were from outside the area, which statistically matches the demographics of those rescued (1 out of 100 in Hood River County live in the county). Many set out either without water or wearing flip-flops, or both. The odds were good that, even without the fire, rescuers would have been called out at least once that weekend, putting them in harm’s way as well.

In the case of the area’s most popular trail, Eagle Creek it is in fact closed because of the destructive fire, and will remain closed for some time.

Looking ahead, this points to what might be an opportunity for sheriff’s departments (which Crag Rats is formally a part of), the Forest Service, and others, to refine whatever education and infrastructure methods can be employed to decrease the likelihood of emergencies requiring rescuers to place themselves at risk.

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