LA County mountain rescue teams share perilous experiences

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County mountain rescues are perilous, costly and have become increasingly more common.

"In 2015, we had 88 rescues. In 2016 we had 124," said Jeff Moran, with the Altadena Mountain Rescue Team.

Those numbers show a 40 percent increase in rescues, and that's just for the Altadena team. There are a total of seven search and rescue teams covering Los Angeles County.

"You've got to be prepared. The forest is beautiful but it can be deadly," said Capt. Robert Sheedy, of the Montrose Search and Rescue team.

According to rescue personnel, many of the people who head into the mountains are not prepared and often tricked by a false sense of security due to their city lifestyle.

"People think, 'Listen, we're 3 miles away from a Starbucks. How much trouble can we get into?'" Moran said.

For victims stuck under cliffs, a winch is used to hoist patients upward. In situations where victims are unable to walk, a stretcher for heavy terrain - called a litter - is used.

Yet pushing patients on the device is often a troublesome effort for rescuers.

"It's very straining. Some of our patients are small and some of our patients are over 300 pounds," said Janet Henderson, with the Montrose Search and Rescue.

Air Rescue 5 is the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's primary chopper for air rescues. It holds two pilots and three crew members.

"You're within striking distance of trees sometimes, hillsides, rocks that fall off the top if you come on down," Air 5 Crew Chief Deputy Joe Palomino said of the dangers of helicopter rescues.

However, while the chopper crews may be all full-time sheriff's employees, the search and rescue teams are not.

"We're volunteers. All of us have other jobs," said Cynthia Moyneur England, with Montrose Search and Rescue.

The result leaves many short staffed and in desperate need of more volunteers willing to go through rigorous medical and mountaineering certification, which is a five-year process.
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