By Mary O’KEEFE
While most were enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon, Montrose Search and Rescue Team members took a trip to Big Tujunga and rappelled out of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Air Rescue 5 helicopter.
In Crescenta Valley it is usually Air Rescue 5 that flies overhead on its way to help search for a lost hiker or airlift an injured driver from Angeles Crest Highway.
Sunday was part of the Montrose Search and Rescue Team’s training. They often work in conjunction with Air 5 when they are in the field. Team members must know how to rappel from the helicopter because there are times when they are flown into remote areas to begin a search. They must also know the procedure of being hoisted into the helicopter when they find a victim that requires air transportation.
Montrose Search and Rescue is a volunteer team of men and women who patrol the Angeles National Forest and are available to be called out for rescues not only in the local area, but throughout the country. Each volunteer member is paid $1 a year. They train throughout the year in several venues including ice and rock climbing and air rescue.
On Sunday, the team invited LASD Reserve Deputy Lou Ferrigno along for the training. Ferrigno has been a reserve deputy for five years. He has gone on patrol in the past with Montrose Search and Rescue and volunteers throughout the department.
“I have been [working with] the Explorers Academy,” Ferrigno said.
The LASD Explorers are teens from 14-to-19 years old that go through academy training and work alongside sheriff personnel. Ferrigno had recently returned from Singapore where he spoke about the sheriff’s department.
The training would not have happened without the crew of Air 5 working with the search and rescue team. Prior to beginning, Air Rescue 5 Deputy Rick Hernandez, senior paramedic, gave instructions to the team.
Air Rescue 5’s team is about to get a new SuperPumas helicopter. The present helicopter is about 50 years old. It was purchased from the U.S. Navy years ago.
Anticipating the new helicopter’s arrival, a committee of three deputies pooled their resources and have been working to remodel the Air 5 base camp facility in the Angeles National Forest. LASD, like most agencies in the country, is feeling the hard economic times. There is no funding available to remodel the old base camp buildings, so volunteers have come with money and materials in hand to help.
The base camp is where Air 5 personnel wait before being called out. The building was an old Nike Missile site from the 1950s. From 1953 to 1979, the United States built 280 missile sites. As the sites closed, the Emergency Services Detail – Air Rescue 5 division moved into the facilities.
Over the years, the extreme Angeles National Forest weather conditions have not been kind to the old cinderblock building.
Montrose Search and Rescue member Reserve Deputy Mike Leum had been at the camp many times and thought it was time for a remodel. Understanding the restraints of the budget, Leum began contacting businesses and friends to help with the project.
“These guys are up here, it’s their home while they are working,” Leum said.
“Air 5 is assigned to the Special Enforcement Bureau [LASD version of Special Weapons and Tactics]. We are all a member of SWAT, we have multiple tasks including being divers for the department,” said Sgt. Rod Kubly, supervisor. Members of Air Rescue can be deployed from rescue boats within the Los Angeles County.
“We are also paramedics that assist search and rescue teams,” Kubly added.
From its ANF base camp, Air 5 can respond to any call within the County, which stretches from Gorman to Orange County and Malibu to Palmdale, within 20 minutes.
Throughout the years, Kubly said, the teams have put their own touches on the camp including adding walls and creating rooms. But as talented and trained as they are as deputies, pilots and paramedics, they are not builders. and Kubly, along with Deputy Mike Wilbur, have been working to update the building including acquiring new appliances and furniture.
Leum has contacted some who have donated materials. Windows were purchased at cost from Grand Openings Window Company and Environmental Furniture donated all the interior furniture for the base camp. But more is needed.
“We need donations of materials like dry wall and nails,” Leum said. A construction crew has been hired using donated funds and will begin the remodeling on Monday, but Leum is concerned they are still short of their goal to complete the job.
Anyone who would like to donate materials or funds to the remodeling project for Air Rescue 5 can email email@example.com.