Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rope team attempts dog rescue

Canine lost in backcountry during storm


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

A crew of rescuers rappelled down a cliff near Johnstone Creek in the East Fork drainage Sunday in an attempt to rescue a dog that had fallen off it during a snowstorm the previous night.

According to the Ketchum Fire Department, the dog was a Brittany spaniel that had been out with a hunter.

The Ketchum-Sun Valley Backcountry Medical Rescue Team, which included five Ketchum Fire Department members and one member from the Sun Valley Fire Department, was deployed Sunday morning in what a Ketchum Fire Department press release called "very dangerous" conditions.

"The entire day from start to finish was heavy, wet snowfall and rain," said Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle.

There was already 5 inches of snow on the ground before rescue teams began, Elle said.

Though the team executed two rappels and ascents of the 150-foot cliff, searching all ledges and crevices, the dog was not found before the search was called off Sunday afternoon due to weather.

The team was trained in high-angle rope rescue, in which both the team members and the victim rely on ropes during ascent and descent. The team was also trained to deal with any medical emergencies they might experience during the rescue, Elle said.

He said animal rescues can provide the rescue teams with valuable training. This rescue served as a training exercise to determine whether the crew could perform a high-angle rescue in less than ideal conditions. Elle said the rescue attempt was an overall success as a training exercise, though the crew did encounter a few minor issues.

The Fire Department sends out rescue crews to assist in animal rescues on a regular basis, mostly to prevent animal owners from attempting their own rescues.

"This is something we do so we don't have to rescue the owner later," Elle said. "What happens is, animals get in trouble, and owners do something dangerous to get the animal back."

The cost of animal rescues is paid for by donations specifically for that purpose and by payment from the animal owner. Elle said no tax dollars are spent on animal rescue attempts.

The lost dog is a 40-pound male brown-and-white Brittany spaniel that answers to the name of Mujah. The dog is wearing an orange tracking collar and no tags, and has not been seen since Saturday. If found, please call the Ketchum Fire Department at 726-7805.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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