Inside Look at Washoe County Search and Rescue - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Inside Look at Washoe County Search and Rescue

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Emergency situations can happen at any time of the day, which is why the Washoe County Search and Rescue teams are prepared for just about anything.

Some weeks are quiet, while others are non-stop.

"There's a reason search and rescue exists," says Sgt. Ralph Caldwell. "Lots of people get themselves lost. Lots of people get stuck or stranded in places they're not familiar with."

Sgt. Caldwell is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"When I get the call, I'm usually out the door within 15 minutes."

He's joined by 140 volunteers who are eager to help. Each one of them is put through lengthy training before being placed on a team.

"I was actually out hiking with my dog, and I saw the search and rescue teams when they were looking for a woman about two years ago," says volunteer Miriam Smith. "They were in an area I knew very well and I felt like I wanted to help."

Smith put those skills to good work, and is now on the back country foot search team. She says most people don't realize how much work goes into it.

"We have to meet certain training requirements every year in terms of hours. We also have to make certain amount of searches," she says. "We also have to equip ourselves with our own gear."

For the most part, volunteers run these teams, saving Washoe County taxpayers nearly $1 million annually.

"The Washoe (County) Sheriff's Office has so many volunteers that our operational costs are kept very manageable," says Sgt. Caldwell.  

The dedication is obvious in this group. Jack Wayman was a school teacher who now drives all the rescue vehicles. He recalls being put into some tough situations over the years.

"Pyramid Lake on a pitch black night with four or five foot waves in these boats, even though they're built for it, it can be very scary," he says.  

At the end of the day though, Sgt. Caldwell and his volunteers say it's worth it because nothing is more rewarding than saving a life.

"We know that people sometimes need help, and we want to make sure everybody gets home to their loved ones," says Sgt. Caldwell.

Written by Adam Rasmussen

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