Mountain rescues on the rise

Unseasonably cool temperatures and penny-pinching may be drawing more hikers to local mountains and trails, triggering an uptick in mountain rescues this year, officials said.

So far this year, there have been 50 mountain rescues for the Verdugo region, which includes Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale and nine other foothill cities, said Glendale Fire Battalion Chief Greg Godfrey. There were 56 rescues in all of 2010.

He said there is a correlation between the number of hikers rescued and the economic recession. 

“People are staying closer to home,” Godfrey said.

Four years ago, the Verdugo dispatch area logged 19 mountain rescues.

Ample water sources in the Angeles National Forest could also be encouraging more hikers to visit their local mountains, Forest Service spokeswoman Sherry Rollman said.

With more residents visiting the region’s mountainous trails, local fire departments have worked double duty to rescue stranded hikers who become overwhelmed or injured.

“During this time of year, it seems like almost every weekend, we are up there,” said Lisa Derderian, spokeswoman for the Pasadena Fire Department.

The drain on resources can be significant.

Glendale deploys two engines, a truck, an urban search-and-rescue team, an ambulance and typically uses a helicopter to hoist injured hikers from inaccessible terrain.

“We don’t know what we are facing until we get out there,” Godfrey said.

Pasadena firefighters request additional aid from Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Altadena Mountain Rescue Team, Derderian said. 

The past two weekends have been especially tragic for local rescue crews.

Two hikers were killed while trying to trek the rocky, unstable hillsides and waterfalls in Angeles National Forest’s Eaton Canyon — doubling the number of fatalities from last year, Derderian added.

Most rescue calls stem from hikers falling or tripping along trails. Others become dehydrated or can’t navigate their way down a steep trail, so they call for help.

“You really have to be prepared to do that,” Derderian said. “Our concern is for our hikers, but we also have to look out for our own personnel.”


Public safety officials suggested the following for hikers in local hillsides:

-Stay on the trail.

-Tell someone where you are going.

-Always bring water.

-Bring a cell phone.

-Know your location. 

-Hike with a friend or group.

-Keep your pets hydrated during hikes. Be conscious of your pets’ condition and physical limits.

-Wear sunscreen.

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