Originally Published: September 2, 2018 6:50 p.m.
Volunteers with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Auxiliary Force are used to receiving recorded messages like this recent one:
“This is Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department. We have a 4-year-old girl missing in the Williams area. This is an all hands call out. Report to incident command. Please respond immediately if available.”
When they do, they gear up and get to work on finding the missing child, never expecting to receive compensation in return.
The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Auxiliary Force has over 350 volunteers trained in multiple specialties. They may be called upon to assist in emergency events such as the recent search for a 4-year old girl in Williams who walked away from her home; an autistic young man who wandered away from a local Prescott-area camp; an Alzheimer’s patient who disappeared in Prescott Valley; the evacuation of Mayer flood victims; the evacuation of homes during the View Point Fire; or assisting fire personnel, Federal Aviation Administration officials and Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) deputies in reaching a remote Verde Valley plane crash site.
These volunteers operate under several different names — Yavapai County Search and Rescue Team (4X4 Unit, Quad Unit, Dog Unit, Mounted Unit, Back Country Unit and the Southern Unit); Volunteers in Protection (VIPs); Yavapai County Jeep Posse; and Verde Search & Rescue.
Under the direction of Sheriff Scott Mascher are four forest patrol deputies. They are specially trained in back-country emergency response and act as the incident commanders responsible for coordination and assignment of the volunteers. This four-man uniformed force ensures the safety of thousands of rural Yavapai County residents and the many visitors who enjoy Yavapai County’s 8,200 square miles of natural recreational attractions.
Yavapai County Sheriff’s Auxiliary Force volunteers join for many different reasons: To find a way to give back to their community, to belong to a like-minded team, or maybe just because they love the outdoors and have a sense of adventure.
It’s for such reasons that Bill Pratt, manager of Yavapai County Search and Rescue Team’s 4X4 unit, began volunteering with the auxiliary force about four years ago.
“It’s challenging as well, so it keeps you on your toes and allows us to do something for the rest of the folks,” Pratt said. “That’s what drives us. That’s why we do it.”
When they join the auxiliary force, volunteers receive countless hours of training, which allows them to use the same maps and navigation systems, the same radios and the same tactical procedures in the field that law enforcement officials use.
However, to keep the auxiliary forces operating, funding is always an issue, Pratt said. Most of the costs for vehicles, equipment and uniforms are borne by the individual volunteers, but fundraising efforts are crucial to their continued existence.
Therefore, to facilitate the purchase of much-needed equipment and supplies, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Auxiliary Force is mounting a new fundraising campaign in the Quad City area, utilizing mailers to local residences and businesses.
“We hope through the mailer program to give people the opportunity to express their appreciation for what we do and what we put into the search and rescue and the greater county auxiliary force efforts,” Pratt said. “This is a non-imposing way for folks to contribute a little bit. Whatever they can spare would be deeply appreciated.”
For more information about local search and rescue efforts, go to www.ycsrt.org.
— The Daily Courier