BOULDER, Colorado — Search and rescue crews in Boulder County are busier than ever. The pandemic has prompted more people to explore the outdoors and has also increased the need for rescues throughout the county.
In 2019, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office said, there were 198 calls for rescues. In 2020, that number jumped to 256, which marks an almost 30% increase from the year prior. Year-to-date, staff and volunteers have responded to 237 calls so far.
"We are just seeing more frequency in the same sort of calls that we have always seen, but we are also seeing more people going further away," Emergency Services Coordinator Ryan Singer said. "As some of the easier access trailheads have gotten crowded, the people that felt comfortable or didn’t want to be with those crowds have gone further away to some of those more challenging trailheads."
In some cases, the rescues have been in areas that are more complicated to get to.
Boulder County has always kept rescue services free for anyone who recreates in the area. The department relies heavily on volunteers from three organizations: Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Boulder Emergency Squad and Front Range Rescue Dogs.
The no-cost service means volunteers are getting stretched thinner now, with increased demand for their assistance.
"For us, it’s not so much looking at the cost of rescue, but how do we continue to make that more sustainable for our volunteer teams and for us as a county," Singer said.
Most hikers will never have to call for rescue help, but many say they are grateful it's in place if they do need it.
"I’m a trail runner, and one wrong step, one stone you don’t see, you go down. Other people aren’t on the trail. You could get yourself into trouble. It’s nice to know that there is some help available," Tom Yulsman, who lives in Boulder, said.
Boulder County is asking those who recreate in the area to make sure to know their limits and be prepared when heading out for an adventure.
"The bottom line is call if you need it. That’s what we are here for. That’s why we do what we do. We all love doing it, but we want it to be for things that are appropriate," Singer said.
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