Dedication to search and rescue team shown in presentation to local team member.
By Jason KUROSU
Dannie Hensley has seen and done a lot in the 50 years that he has been a member of the Montrose Search and Rescue team. His Montrose Search and Rescue experience comprises 762 call-outs, 512 meetings (which are held once a month), 494 trainings, 230 patrols and 175 public relation talks.
For his ongoing commitment to the team, Hensley was recognized by local law enforcement and his peers at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station’s 53rd annual Volunteer and Reserve Awards Banquet in April. In addition to that honor, this month Hensley was awarded a 50-year pin by Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell.
Hensley was sworn in on Sept. 18, 1964. Prior to that, he spent six years as a smoke jumper in Montana.
Hensley has also worked with NORSAT and UNISAT, and the Sheriff Dept.’s Major Crimes Unit and was with the American Red Cross for nine years and with LAPD for 10 years.
Despite being in demand by a number of different agencies, Hensley kept up his volunteering with Montrose Search and Rescue for half a century.
“This is my home,” Hensley said, though he credited his father and his Tennessee upbringing (“the Volunteer state”) with contributing to his volunteerism spirit.
Among the occasions that have stuck most with Hensley include being called out on Christmas Day to Big Tujunga Canyon, only a few years into his Search and Rescue tenure. A young boy fell 45 feet onto a bed of rocks and was seemingly unhurt. After Hensley and others arrived though, they quickly found his condition was more serious than previously thought.
“I’ll never forget that he looked at me and asked, ‘Am I going to die?’” Hensley recalled. “It wasn’t like today. If we had the proper communication like we have now, he might still be alive.”
The impacts Hensley and other volunteers have had on members of the community have fostered connections that surprise him to this day.
Hensley was recently asked by an old friend if he remembered rescuing her brother and sister nearly 45 years earlier on Mount Lukens. Somehow, the connection had never been made until then, but he remembered the incident; a young girl and boy lost in the mountains, suffering from hypothermia and frostbite. Hensley found them sitting in the snow with no shoes or socks.
“The girl was going lose both of her feet,” Hensley remembered.
Though he hadn’t known those two kids were his friend’s siblings, “The important thing is that they’re okay.”
Hensley’s next endeavor will be to meet up with 230 ex-smoke jumpers in Missoula, Montana for their annual reunion this July.
“Dannie Hensley is the rock of the Montrose Search and Rescue team. Getting his 50-year pin is a small reward for the hundreds of lifesaving rescues he has been part of,” said Mike Leum, assistant director reserve chief, Search and Rescue. “But Dannie never did it for any reward other than the personal gratification he gets with every rescue. He avoids the spotlight and prefers to work behind-the-scenes. His historical perspective is invaluable and we are lucky to benefit from his experience and wisdom.”
“What can I say about Dannie Hensley? He has been on the team 50 years, longer than a couple of our members have been alive,” said John Camphouse, reserve captain for the Montrose Search and Rescue team. “He has seen the change from civilian volunteers to reserve deputy sheriffs. He has logged countless hours of mountain rescue training. He became an emergency medical technician when the Sheriff’s Mountain Rescue Program made it mandatory. Dannie has withstood the test of time. Here’s to you, Dannie.”