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Search and Rescue
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The Fresno County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue team is responsible for searching, rescuing or recovering people lost, injured or killed while outdoors in Fresno County.  Approximately 2,000 square miles of Fresno County is home to the high sierra and every year this unit conducts dozens of Search and Rescue missions in this area.  Unit members are deployed on missions 24 hours a day in all kinds of adverse conditions and weather.  Unit members are highly trained and are expected to be self-sufficient for multiple days at a time.  These members are trained in wilderness first aid, land navigation, swiftwater rescue, mantracking and technical rope rescue.  Other training specific to the alpine winter environment consists of snow shelter building, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobile operation and snowcat operation.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office has a proud history of Search and Rescue service within Fresno County. Our program is staffed by both Sheriff's deputies and community volunteers.  Four different volunteer teams work within Search and Rescue:

Mountaineer Unit
SAR unit whose interest and expertise are steep angle and alpine activities. This team also participates also includes winter and summer ground searches as well as white water rescue. Open to persons 18 years and older.

Mounted Posse
Equestrian unit open to all persons 18 years or older. Volunteers must provide their own equine and transportation.

Jeep Rescue Unit
The Jeep Squadron is open to all persons 18 years or older. Volunteers must provide their own 4x4 vehicle.

Air Squadron
The Air Squadron is open to all persons 21 years or older. Volunteers must provide their own airplane and pilot licensing.

Things to consider when recreating in the mountains:

  • Plan carefully and create an itinerary, then do not deviate from it.
  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Make sure someone NOT ON YOUR TRIP knows your itinerary.  Agree upon a date/time that law enforcement should be called if your contact has not heard from you.
  • If you know you are lost, then stop and stay where you are.  Seek shelter and make your location visible with brightly colored items, fire, smoke, large words on the ground, etc.  Make noise by shouting, using a whistle, etc.  Remember that shelter, warmth and water are more important than food.  
  • Don't attempt more than you are physically able to handle.
  • Obtain adequate training with outdoor equipment before using it.
  • Encourage the group to stay together rather than separate.
  • Always carry emergency supplies.  Minimum suggested include:
    • Waterproof means of starting a fire
    • Jacket
    • Water purification system
    • Plastic survival blanket, tarp, etc.for shelter
    • Whistle
    • Map & Compass, along with the knowledge of how to use them
    • First Aid kit
    • Flahlight with extra batteries
    • Paracord or similar string
    • Mirror for signaling aircraft
    • Extra food
    • Closed cell foam pad for ground insulation

Being near any body of water can be fun, but it does come with certain responsibilities, safety being the first and primary one. Read these tips to stay safe on your next outing.

Boaters and Swimmers

  • Don't drink alcohol while swimming, boating, or water skiing.
  • Always wear a life jacket while in a boat and while skiing, even if you're a good swimmer.

Hikers and Backpackers

  • Always hike or pack in groups.
  • Stay on the trail, if there is one.
  • Carry plenty of water and make frequent stops to drink.
  • Carry adequate high-nutrition food.
  • Outdoor necessities include a compass, first aid kit, a whistle and mirror for signaling, space blanket, and a detailed map of the area.
  • Familiarize yourself with the area before you enter, and take someone with you who knows the area.
  • Always be specific with friends or relative about your planned route and stick to it.
  • IF YOU GET LOST... stay put! Especially at night. Stationary people are much easier to find.

Mountain Climbers

  • Don't attempt more than you can physically handle. The mountains are more rugged and difficult a climb than most people realize.
  • Before attempting snow field climbing, get adequate training in the use of crampons and snowshoes.
  • NEVER climb mountains alone... and NEVER abandon your climbing partner.
  • Always register your climb with the appropriate agency or friends/relatives. And again be specific with your plans and route.
  • Tell somebody where and how you plan to climb, and what day and time or your return.
  • It takes only a moment to sign the Trailhead register, but that information may save your life.
  • Prior to engaging the mountains, check the weather forecast and pay heed. Temperatures can drop several tens of degrees in a short period of time... even in late summer.


  • Be specific about your hunt area and boundaries. Tell somebody where you are going and how long you will be gone.
  • Prearrange with friends or relatives what time and day you plan to return.
  • Wear the approved clothing... bright orange or colors which can easily be seen.
  • Carry the same supplies and gear for hikers (above).
  • Hunting in rugged terrain is strenuous work. Know your physical limits.


  • Prepare your site - Find a level spot away from overhanging branches, brush or dry grass. Keep away from the base of a hill, escaped campfires can travel up-hill very quickly.
  • Beware of duff - Duff is the layer of decomposing material that lies on the forest floor between the pine needles and the bare dirt. Duff burns while bare dirt does not.
  • Attend to your fire - Never leave a fire unattended, even for a few minutes or to take a nap. It only takes a moment for a fire to escape.
  • Drown the fire – Drown your campfire ½ hour before you break camp. Use your shovel to separate the burning pieces of wood in the fire pit.
  • Stir and Mix – Stir and mix water with ashes until the fire is completely out. Do not try to bury the fire it can smolder for hours and possibly escape. 
  • Drown Charcoal Briquettes – Charcoal briquettes should be extinguished by placing them in a bucket of water stirred thoroughly, then poured into the fire pit.
  • Check the Ashes – Using the back of your hand, to see if there is still heat present. Additional water and stirring may be needed, make sure the fire is out before you leave the campsite. Walk around check the area 50 feet from the fire pit to make sure embers or sparks did not escape.
  • It Can Cost You - You can/will be held liable for the cost of suppression and damages caused by any wildfire that starts through negligence.
  • Come Prepared – Obtain your campfire permit, bring your shovel, a bucket for water, and check with Forest staff to see if there are fire restrictions in place.
  • For more information on campfire permits follow this link www.fs.usda.gov/detail/sierra/passes-permits/?cid=fsbdev7_018116
  • To obtain your campfire permit online follow this link http://www.preventwildfireca.org/

Common errors which lead to serious consequences
(based on actual rescue missions)

  • Climbing alone. I couldn't find anyone to go, and I was only going to go a short ways.
  • Leaving your partner behind to "wait" for you. Usually because they can't continue for whatever reason. If your partner "can't make it"... return with them to base camp.
  • Not wearing a life jacket. Most drowning victims are "good swimmers", and they were going to be in the water for only a "minute or so" (crossing a river or lake).
  • Leaving your equipment or summit pack behind (including medications) because it was heavy, you didn't think you would need it, and you were just a little ways from the top.
  • Novices climbing too difficult a route, thinking it didn't look that hard, but pushed onward beyond their physical ability to the point of no return.
  • "Desk job" workers trying to hunt too far in too rugged terrain without first building up their physical stamina and condition.
  • Getting disoriented in a white out blowing blizzard snowstorm. It came up so suddenly and you end up a "ridge or two" away from your believed location. You didn't think the weather would change that fast. After all, it was 70 degrees in town... geeze!!
  • A VFR (visual flight regulations) pilot trying to just "make it" to the next landing field through a summer squall and thunder storm. Better a day late!!
  • Climbing UP a steep rock surface is a lot easier than trying to climb back DOWN without proper equipment. Think!!
  • While hiking around the lake, you couldn't have been more than a few hundred yards from the child... and you told them not to go near the water. It happened so fast.
  • A snowboarder looking for that thrill of all thrills... back country deep powder... ends up head over heels. Literally. The only thing visible is the board.

Layer Your Clothing.
Layers are far more versatile than one heavy coat. They allow you to add or subtract insulation depending on activity level and weather conditions.

Keep Clothing Dry.
Make every effort to keep your clothing dry! Remember, clothing can get just as wet from perspiration as it can from the elements.

Cotton Kills.
Never use cotton as any essential part of your clothing. It retains little or no warmth when wet.

The Layers.
First layer that does not absorb much water, but instead wicks it away from the body. Similar to traditional "long johns" but made from synthetic materials. Second layer for insulation, preferably one that is warm even if wet, i.e.; wool, polyester, nylon pile, etc. Third layer of insulation, similar to second layer, if needed. Forth layer should be wind and rain protection for both the upper and lower body. It should be large enough to fit over insulation and still allow freedom of movement.

  • Matches or butane lighter in a waterproof container.
  • Map and Compass (plus the knowledge of how to use them).
  • Candle
  • Extra clothing
  • Extra water
  • Whistle
  • First aid kit (plus the knowledge of how to use it)
  • Knife
  • Tarp (plastic sheet, space blanket, large garbage bags, etc.) for shelter
  • Head lamp or flashlight with extra bulb and batteries 25 feet of 1/8 inch cord
  • Ground insulation i.e. ground pad (should be closed cell foam). Much of your body heat can be lost by sitting on a surface that is wet or colder than you.

Tell Someone Where You Are Going. A timetable, itinerary, vehicle description, a list of outer clothing and tent colors, and a copy of a map of where you are going should be left with family friends, etc.

Party Size. A party of four is ideal. A party of two should be considered the minimum. Soloists must understand the risks of "going it alone." Make sure you have enough experienced people along to manage a group of novices.

Companions. Choose them carefully. Consider experience, judgment, and physical condition. Parties with members of similar abilities usually perform best together. The slowest person should set the pace for the group.

Planning. A must. Current information from maps, guidebooks, park and forest service personnel and those who have been there before can be helpful in trip planning.

If you become lost. Stop and think! Backtrack if possible, trust your compass. Don't travel more than a short distance unless you know where you are going. If a search is initiated for you it will start at the point you were last seen. If conditions make travel impractical, seek shelter. Make your location visible with brightly colored items, fire, smoke, stamping words out in the snow, etc. Make noise. Use a whistle, firearm, shouts, etc. Three sounds in a row (whistle blasts, gunshots, etc.) is recognized distress signal. Shelter, warmth, and water are more important than food.

Contact Information

Lieutenant Kathy Curtice
2200 Fresno Street
Fresno, CA 93721
(559) 600-8039
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