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Sat, Feb. 23
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Storms put search and rescue groups through their paces

According to a year- end YCSO press release, the onslaught began Dec. 29 when YCSO and Verde Search & Rescue teams helped Coconino County and Sedona Police Department with evacuations along Oak Creek Canyon, when Oak Creek flooded its banks and threatened homes and residents in the Sedona area.

At the same time, YCSO, with the aid of the YCSO Jeep Posse, Black Canyon Fire Department and YCSO Volunteers in Protection, worked to evacuate residents and check on the welfare of stranded parties along Black Canyon Creek and the Agua Fria River.

Also during this same time frame, the Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter helped YCSO Search & Rescue in locating two families that had gone camping prior to the storm in the Bloody Basin area.

The DPS helicopter also checked on the welfare of a reported hunter who was somewhere in the Pine Mountain Wilderness of the Tonto National Forest.

A Dec. 29 mission ended on a sadder note when Prescott Police and Fire Departments called on YCSO to help in the search for two lost canoeists.

Both went missing after their canoe capsized in the rushing waters of Granite Creek.

YCSO's Back Country Unit, Search Management Unit, Jeep Posse, 4X4 West Unit, Quad Unit and K-9 Search & Rescue Units took part in the search and eventual recovery of the victims' bodies on Thursday morning.

On New Year's Eve, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office requested help from YCSO Search & Rescue to locate two more families and two more hunters reported missing and/or trapped in the Sheep Ridge area of Bloody Basin.

The DPS helicopter was again called out, as well as YCSO Back Country Units, who were able to confirm everyone was all right once the waters receded again.

The same day, a report from a stranded hiker in Sycamore Canyon sent more YCSO Search & Rescue personnel on alert.

Fortunately, a YCSO sergeant located the hiker's vehicle and left a note asking him to please contact YCSO when he got out safely.

The hiker finally did that, but only as rescue teams were already on the way.

Susan Quayle, YCSO public information officer, said "In 2004, Yavapai County Sheriff's Office Search & Rescue Units responded to 121 calls for help. This is up from 99 calls in 2003 and 87 calls in 2002."

When asked why the numbers keep climbing, Sgt. Gene McFarland, of YCSO Forest Patrol said, "It has a lot to do with the numbers of citizens, especially those that come from out of the area, who are going out to enjoy the wilderness of Yavapai County."

Qualye concurred and said, "YCSO wants to remind all the hunters, hikers, campers and explorers who use the forests and trails of Yavapai County to take caution and be prepared for their outings. An enjoyable day in the outdoors can turn tragic with just one small mistake."

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