Mohave rescuers looking to community for support

Search and Rescue volunteers want your $2

Mohave County Search and Rescue member Amanda Kaufman and Luis Vega, commander of the Kingman unit, discuss a new map for off-road enthusiasts. (DOUG McMURDO/Miner)

Mohave County Search and Rescue member Amanda Kaufman and Luis Vega, commander of the Kingman unit, discuss a new map for off-road enthusiasts. (DOUG McMURDO/Miner)

KINGMAN - Two dollars.

That's what buys a map that could save the life of someone combing the back roads of the Hualapai Mountains in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

That same two dollars, the suggested donation for the Hualapai Mountain Off Highway Map, will go to help fund the men and women of the all-volunteer Mohave County Search and Rescue units.

The map is the first of many that are planned to raise funds for the group, whose members spend hundreds of dollars a year for the privilege of searching rugged country for lost or injured hikers and motorists, and the occasional Alzheimer's patient who wanders away.

Members must possess a four-wheel-drive vehicle (and pay for wear and tear out of their own pockets), climbing and swiftwater rescue equipment, radios, baskets and uniforms.

Mohave County pays for their fuel costs.

"It costs between $400 and $800 to get outfitted," said Commander Luis Vega, a member of Kingman's 28-member SAR unit for 16 years.

"And then it goes up from there," said Amanda Kaufman, who is nearing the end of her first year with the unit.

They're not complaining. They do what they do because they love doing it, but unlike other nonprofit organizations, SAR is held to a high standard.

"We're civilians," said Vega. "We're not sworn officers, but we represent the Mohave County Sheriff's Office."

Keeping those standards involves a significant amount of training.

"We're exposed to some pretty dangerous situations," said Vega. "We do our own training on everything but swiftwater rescue."

A third -party instructor teaches swiftwater rescue techniques, but everything else is taught in-house.

Every 90 days, members have to rappel out of a helicopter to keep their rating.

The units - in Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City - train together and often respond to missions together, regardless of where in the county an incident occurs.

Vega said they average about 50 missions a year.

They learn first aid, and how to use GPS, maps and a compass. There are teams of trackers, technical rope specialists and swiftwater rescue.

All of that time and effort takes money. The funds raised through donations will go to purchase team equipment, such as radios, rope gear and operating supplies.

The Hualapai Mountain map includes more than 20 points of interest and is denoted by a number. In the lower left-hand corner of the map, users can find the GPS coordinates that will lead them to the site, such as Wild Cow Campground.

National Geographic Maps gave SAR permission to use its map, and several local businesses sponsored the map by paying a portion of printing costs.

In the near future, Vega said maps of the Cerbats and White Hills ranges will become available, and a map of the Black Mountains will be available for the Bullhead City unit.

Businesses that would like to display the maps for SAR can contact the Sheriff's Office at (928) 753-0753.