December 10, 2014

FSAR meeting scheduled for tonight has been cancelled!

The FSAR meeting scheduled for tonight has been cancelled.

Our next meeting is January 14, at the Kingfield fire station. 

The January training at this meeting will be crime scene preservation.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

October 31, 2014

Baxter State Park completes study of Search and Rescue incidents in the Park

(posted with permission from the Friends of Baxter State Park)

Baxter State Park recently released a study of search and rescue (SAR) activities in the Park over the past 22 years. The report reveals trends in the types of injuries, ages of the victims, and causes leading to the injuries. Studying these trends will help park staff prepare for the incidents they are most likely to encounter, and educate visitors on how to avoid problems in the Park.

The majority of SAR incidents in Baxter State Park are related to hiking.
Lower extremity injuries topped the list of issues at 26%. 
Exhaustion was the second highest at 16%. 
Fatigue was a major precipitating factor to serious injuries.
Several other interesting trends emerge from the data:
Men comprise 60% of the individuals requiring SAR;
women comprise 40%.
Hikers over the age of 60 are more likely to require SAR.
These visitors comprise 8% of park use, but 18% of SAR incidents.

The vast majority of SAR incidents happen while descending a mountain, rather than on the climb.
Dehydration, exhaustion, and underpreparedness were secondary factors in many incidents.
According to the report, it is important to understand the difficulty of the hike, trail conditions, weather predictions, and your own physical condition before setting out on a hike.

Katahdin is one of the most strenuous day hikes in New England. Nutrition, hydration, proper footwear, and appropriate clothing are very important.

The Friends of BSP publishes a brochure called Know Before you Go, with tips on how to be prepared for a trip to the Park. Click here to download a copy of this brochure, and stay safe out there!

October 9, 2014

From a recent FSAR Team Member Survey:

What are your favorite outdoor activities? 

day hiking2083%
backpacking (overnight hiking)1563%
section hiking521%
through hiking14%
fishing (spin casting)313%
fly fishing 1354%
Geo cashing14%
Whitewater (any type)625%
rock climbing938%

October 2, 2014

FSAR At Baxter Sept 2014

Baxter, September 27 & 28, 2014
By FSAR Team President, Steve Yates

I arrived at the Togue Pond Bunkhouse at dusk just as teammates Jim A. and Melissa were dragging themselves out of the Subaru.  They spent Thursday night camping in the park and connected with their client before sunrise that Friday morning. They guided a client up, over, and back down Katahdin for the last 12 hours.  The three of us exited the park just long enough for dinner at the River Drivers Tavern.  Arriving back at the bunkhouse, we found Paul, Evie, and two interns Dan and Tanja, from the Yale University School of Medicine, unloading their vehicles.  Paul, Evie, Dan, Tanja, and I set up our tents in the pines over looking Togue Pond while Jim and Melissa vied for the bunks.

      Saturday morning dawned clear and mild.  Through my tent screen, I had a stunning view of the south side of Katadhin with the lower slopes dressed in every shade of red and orange imaginable.  Jim and Melissa had  coffee, pancakes, and hardboiled eggs for all that were interested.  We spent the morning getting acquainted with Dan and Tanja, perusing maps and sorting though packs as we waited for Pat and Karen to arrive.

    We settled on a mission for the day after some deliberation.  Evidently Stuart (park director) had expressed safety concerns in and around the Little and Big Niagara Falls.  We caravanned into Daicy Pond pausing to check out the facilities; I definitely see myself and Alice spending some time there next summer! From Daicy, we hiked south on the Niagara Trail for 30 minutes to the first set of falls.  The rope techies surveyed our surroundings and found rocks, ledges, and water that could present a hazard to hikers and sightseers.  This was our training scene for the next few hours.  After unsuccessfully scouring the rock for cracks that would support the cams and nuts needed for support, two trees were selected as anchors.  A belay line was set up, then a lowering line.  Paul demonstrated the rigging plate and Melissa demonstrated the scarab.  Tanja jumped at the chance to be lowered, grinning the whole time.  Once at the bottom of the slope, Pat reconfigured the system for ascending with a 3/1 ratio and then added a pulley for a 9/1 system.  It was an enjoyable afternoon of learning, lots of time for questions and discussion, brilliant sun, blue sky, water rushing past us, and temps in the mid 70’s.


     Jim created the perfect dinner ambiance with a single candle on white granite in the center of the picnic table.   Dinner was pot luck: beans and franks, lasagna, salad, steak, and spaghetti.  No one left the table hungry.  After eating, Dan and Tanja spoke of their experiences in Africa.  Dan worked in South Africa primarily with victims of AIDS and Tanja was at ground zero of the ebola outbreak in Liberia.  Their stories were heartbreaking, giving us a personal and unbiased perspective that we do not get on the evening news.  The images that they conveyed are still with me a week later.  

      On Sunday, Dan and Tanja made an early departure from Togue to hike Kathadin.  The rest of us did a short hike leaving Roaring Brook Rd., around Rum Pond, and back to Tote Rd.  We did perform a rescue as we helped repair a flat tire on the Tote Road.  Back at Togue Pond, we took down our tents, cleaned up the bunk house, and vacated the park by 1400. 

Respectively Submitted,
Steve Yates

Baxter Crew:  Jim A, Melissa S, Paul and Evie M, Pat and Karen C, Steve Y.  Interns: Dan and Tanja

August 9, 2014

August 8, 2014 Cranberry Peak Rescue

FSAR's Jim A. and Melissa S assisted in a litter carry-out on Cranberry Peak for an elderly female with a fractured leg. 

In Melissa's words: 

"The call out came in at 613 pm from Steve Y. The team arrived on scene at 7:15 p.m. when we hiked up to meet the litter team. 
Also participating in the nighttime carry out were Northstar personnel, MWS, and local fire department members. This night rescue was made difficult by an intense rainstorm which made the trail muddy and the roots and rocks along the trail extremely slippery. The patient was in good spirits, however, and joked with the litter crew. We arrived at the ambulance around 8:45 p.m. Great teamwork by all!"

Photo: Melissa S.

July 30, 2014

Bigelow Search for 18 Y.O. male on A.T. in the Bigelows 7-29-2014

Bigelow Search 7-29-2014

FSAR was notified by the MASAR duty officer around 4:30 p.m. today that MWS Kevin Adams was requesting that all available FSAR team members respond to the A.T. trailhead on Rt. 27 immediately.

An 18 y.o. male was hiking with his Outward Bound program southbound on the A.T. when he became separated from his group.

6 FSAR team members responded to the trailhead just north of Sugarloaf and met up with MWS Scott Stevens and Reggie Hammond. A search plan was developed that covered the 4 most likely trails that the lost person could be on. We divided into 3 teams as Warden Hammond had already swept and eliminated 1 possible trail.  The 3 FSAR teams headed northbound from the Stratton Brook Pond Rd 1. up the A.T. toward the Bigelow Range Trail. 2. toward Horns Pond and 3. up the fire warden's trail to Bigelow col.  

ABout an hour after beginning the search, Seb and Marc who were on the A.T. encountered some southbound hikers and interviewed them. Seb had (very smartly) taken a screenshot of Scott Steven’s laptop that included an image of the missing person. The hikers confirmed that they had passed him someplace between West Peak and Horns Pond. He was moving slowly and they gave him some water as he was out.  After a radio conference the 3 teams decided to continue with the original plan as the missing man could decide to take the side trail at Horns pond down to the Stratton Brook Pond road and we wanted to sweep the ridge trail from West Peak.

Meanwhile Peter T. arrived on scene. In his words: I arrived about 1820 at Rt 27 trail junction, then, enroute to Stratton Brook Pond I met Warden Reggie Hammond.  He commandeered me to canvass businesses in Stratton/Coplin for sightings and or info on missing hiker.  Around 1945 I gave him a verbal report, with two new hikers who had seen the missing hiker earlier.  A bit later,  we got the word missing hiker was found.  I left my notes with Warden Hammond. 

At approximately 2.5 hours into the search (around 8 p.m.) Seb and Marc reached the Bigelow Ridge trail and took a short break. Soon after the missing man met up with them.  FSAR team members conducted an interview with the man to assess his condition and needs. He was scared, had run out of water, was very hungry and darkness was nearly upon him and he had no flashlight. He consumed 3 liters of water, 3 cliff bars and more!!  After a short rest the crew began the slow descent off the mountain.

Just after 10 p.m. the crew reached the parking area on the Stratton Brook Pond Road. He was met by a director from the Outward Bound Program and 2 other wardens who briefly interviewed him. No medical assistance was needed so all rescuers headed for home.

There were no reported injuries during the successful mission.

Account written by Steve Mitman, FSAR Secretary.

 Marc prepares to hit the trail.

 After recent rains, the Stratton Brook was high enough that we had to take our boots off to ford it. 
 Jim and Scott discuss the search plan.

 Much of the communication between teams was conducted by cell phone.

 A beautiful evening for a search!

At the junction of the Horns Pond trail and the Firewardens trail 2 team split up.  

Seb and Marc debrief with the other rescuers on their return to the trailhead.  Mission accomplished, way to go FSAR! 

Waterford Search for 77 y.o. woman July 7, 2014

Waterford search July 7, 2014

2 FSAR members participated in the search for a 77 y.o. woman in Waterford. Barry and Jim A. conducted 3 grid searches with the MWS and other MASAR teams throughout the day looking for the missing woman.

She was was found safe 48 hours after being reported lost the following day.

more info here (including some footage of FSAR members searching):

July 11, 2014

Annual FSAR Family Picnic

We had a great turnout at the annual FSAR family picnic. It was hosted this year by Steve and Alice in Kingfield.  I did not take too many photos, sorry if I missed you!

June 27, 2014

Crocker Mountain Hiker Rescue, June 24, 2014

Crocker Rescue 6-24-2014

On Tuesday, June 24, around 4 p.m., FSAR was notified that there was a possible rescue of a through hiker in need on the A.T., reportedly approximately 4 miles south of Maine Rt. 27 in the Crocker mountains.

FSAR team member Barry L. was working a shift with NorthStar ambulance and responded to the Rt. 27 A.T. south trailhead along with his paramedic partner, Corey B, and Harold S.  The initial response 'hasty team' was made up of 4 people, Maine game warden Scott Stevens, community volunteer Jake C, and NorthStar paramedic, Steve N, and Barry L. The plan was to make contact with the hiker (who had cell service) and then call for additional backup if needed. The crew hiked for more than 5 miles in approximately four hours before finally making physical contact with the patient just south of North Crocker. Fortunately, cell coverage allowed for updates with the patient before the hasty team arrived at the patient. Meanwhile, a crew made up of Eustis and Phillips firefighters staged at the initial command post at the AT trailhead in case a carry out was needed.

Steve M. put FSAR on ‘standby’ around 5 p.m. and 6 team members indicated that they were available to respond if needed. Pete B, an FSAR team member who was also on duty for Northstar at the time, called to discuss and pre-plan some different scenarios. FSAR member Al called and suggested that, if needed, the Plumb Creek Road could be utilized to drive within 1 mile of the summit of North Crocker on a bushwhack trail.

The Maine Forest Service  was also contacted about the possibility of using a helicopter to short-haul the hiker off the trail. They responded with a helo while there was still daylight, but strong winds and poor visibility in fog, and a lowering cloud ceiling made a short-haul too risky.

Weather moves over the summit of Crocker Mtn. preventing a MFS short-haul. 
(photo Pete Boucher)

Once the hasty team made contact with the patient, the Northstar medic, examined the hiker. He began treatment for dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea possibly from food poisoning.

As darkness was quickly approaching, Barry requested that a group of FSAR members gather food, tents, sleeping bags and headlamps to re-supply the hasty/medical team near the summit of North Crocker for a possible overnight on the trail as the weather was forecasted to deteriorate. Pat C, Devin L. and Steve M. staged at the Kingfield Fire Station at 9 p.m. and were hiking from the parking lot on the Caribou Valley Rd. around 10 p.m.  

Devin and Mit discuss and sort gear and food for the hasty team at KFD before moving to the trailhead.

Hasty team member Stevens (MWS) was being ‘shadowed’ by a camera crew from the 'Northwoods Law' reality television program. Although the 4 man crew was apparently in good physical shape for the hike, they carried little personal gear and were unprepared to spend the night with the patient on the mountain. This scenario was looking like a real possibility at this point. Once patient treatment had begun, warden Stevens hiked the camera team back down the mountain via South Crocker and Caribou Valley.

The heavily loaded resupply team (weighed later, Mit’s pack was nearly 50 lbs!) began the nighttime ascent of South Crocker at a surprisingly moderate pace. The resupply team encountered the departing camera team next to Crocker Cirque. One cameraman was using the very bright on-camera LED studio light for hiking illumination! After a brief break to swap info and a few stories, both groups continued.

Meanwhile the patient was responding well to treatment and eventually felt strong enough to attempt a slow hike down the mountain. Around midnight, Barry radioed the resupply team and recommended they stop climbing and to stage on the trail and wait for the descending medical team. The team was an estimated 30 minutes from the summit of South Crocker at this point. At 12:30 a.m. the medical team met up with the resupply group and provided snacks to the hasty team during a trailside break.

SOP for rescue: "hurry up and wait!" the re-supply team waits on the A.T. just above Crocker Cirque
 for the hasty team rendezvous.  

Soon we all began the slow descent down to the parking area on the Caribou Valley Rd. The patient was uncomfortable but was also chatty and kept up a reasonable pace stopping every 20-30 minutes to rest.

Rescuers take a break during the hike off South Crocker around 1:30 a.m.

At 2:15 a.m., the party hit the parking area where the patient was immediately escorted to the waiting Northstar SUV with Medic Lee I. The patient was then shuttled down the Caribou Valley logging road and out to a waiting ambulance on Rt. 27 where he was evaluated and transported to FMH.

Overall the rescue was a success. No rescuers were injured, and the patient was connected with medical care as quickly and safely as possible.

As with all search and rescue calls, FSAR team members plan to critique the rescue to share perspectives, list effective practices and to learn from the things that we would do differently next time.

Observations respectfully submitted by S. Mitman 6-26-2014

June 24, 2014

Largay Search 6-17-2014

Largay Search Description by Jim Logan

At 5:30 am on Tuesday June 17, five members of FSAR met at Avon

Airport for a MASAR search for Gerry

Largay. The five were Melissa, Jim A, Steve M, Josh, and Jim L. The team was

assigned an area of wilderness north of the AT that included some steep cliff bands. We were in hopes that after nearly

eleven months there would be a better chance of clues as animals would

likely have gone through any packs or clothing seeking what they could

use. This would probably distribute traces through a broader area.

The day was dry and never got especially hot and leaves kept us shaded

so we had good weather for our work. After probably three miles of AT hiking,

we entered the woods at about 9:30 and quickly came to old slide areas

covered with lots of vegetation and hiding cleverly disguised holes for our

legs to find. Everyone went in to the hip at least once, and Old Jim got his

foot quite entangled once (he was rescued by Young Jim). It also became

very steep and there were cliffs to be negotiated. There were blowdowns,

too. However, we never did encounter the dense stands of small spruce

that so plagued us on last years’ searches. Still, the overall effect was at

least equally miserable.

The usual challenges with the DeLorme GPS surfaced, but with three

competent GPS users and personal devices we managed to sort things

out and the team worked well together covering the area with out-and-back

progressions. We found no indications of any kind that Largay or any other

human had been there. The covered area was quite inhospitable for travel

by humans or other animals and it seemed unlikely that Largay would have

gone far into it. However, there were many caves and other places where

she could be very well hidden if she had made it into this zone and we did

our best to locate any kind of evidence.

The group worked well as a unit and felt we had put forth a solid effort. Also

involved that day were eight members of Mahoosic SAR working their own

area closer to the Poplar Ridge Lean-To. Very surprisingly, we all emerged

from the woods at the same time and Mahoosic had the same frustrations

we did.

All the SAR participants returned to their cars after ten hours on the search.

We were back at the airport twelve hours after we had assembled there in

the morning.

We did a post-operation critique and felt good about our work. We decided

we had a good sized group and that too many more might have been

unwieldy unless we had enough for two units. Among things to remember

for future searches were considerations of available water: there was none

after crossing the Orbeton Stream at the very beginning and fortunately we

planned for this. Also, we decided orange clothing was superior to bright

yellow. Additionally, at the lunch break we thrashed out what more we

could accomplish and how long it would take to exit the woods and get to

the car and get out. This made our afternoon work goals more reasonable

than they might have been if we had just dived in with no plan for what

we could prudently get done. (It was interesting that this was an important

question on what was nearly the longest day of the year; gauging the

capacity of team energy is important too. An expectations and exit plan

is worth considering at every search lunch time break.) Additionally, we

communicated effectively with CP through texting as well as radio, and this

was very good to know. And, as ever with searches, we stressed the need

to keep the group together at all times.

It was another FSAR job well done.