Search and rescue team holds fundraiser for members

KINGMAN - The Mohave County Search and Rescue team will hold a fundraiser rummage sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of First Arizona Savings, 2711 Stockton Hill Road.

Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Kingman unit of Search and Rescue, whose members incur expenses while volunteering their time responding to calls. Search and Rescue does not receive federal or state funding for anything other than the reimbursement of fuel during a mission. Each member must purchase their own personal gear, such as flashlights and packs, while specialized gear, such as radios and ropes, are paid for through fundraisers like the one being held Saturday.

Capt. John Bridges was a volunteer firefighter before joining Search and Rescue 22 years ago. Like all the other 35 members of the Kingman unit, he held a full-time job before retiring in February and was often called out in the middle of the night to respond to emergency calls.

With the exception of two deputies with the Mohave County Sheriff's Office who coordinate SAR, all of the rescuers are unpaid volunteers. That's not to say there isn't some reward, Bridges said.

"The payoff is when I hear over the radio that we've found someone," he said. "It's knowing that we did something out there that helped someone else."

One of Bridge's most memorable rescues came on a spring night around 15 years in Mohave Valley after a 6-year-old girl went missing. Rescuers searched for the girl until 2 a.m. and ended up following the tracks they had already laid after the girl circled back on her path three times. Rescuers eventually found her as she was lying down to go to sleep.

Not all of the rescues have happy endings. Bridges has participated in body recoveries after helicopter crashes or other accidents in the Grand Canyon. He was also one of the searchers who four years ago on Labor Day found a 13-year-old girl and her 10-year-old sister at the bottom of a mine shaft in Chloride. The girls had fallen through the abandoned mine while riding ATVs with their family. The younger girl survived. Her sister did not.

Bridges says that the majority of rescues have better outcomes and that most calls are the result of people who haven't returned from hiking or off-roading trips in the desert. Many searches take place in the Hualapai Mountains, where hikers become disoriented off their paths and have to be rescued.

Bridges said the units biggest expenses are radios and ropes for vertical rescues. Those expenses total around $5,000 a year, "although we could use $20,000," he said.

For more information on Search and Rescue, visit www.azmohavesar.com.