Lyon County Search and Rescue team volunteers to keep the community safe
This is an “extraordinary” group of volunteers whose titles only scratch the surface of the services they provide.
The Lyon County Search and Rescue team doesn’t just help find and rescue those lost. The all-volunteer group – made up of dozens of adults with varying backgrounds, ranging from retired firefighters and police officers to school bus drivers and substitute teachers – provide search, rescue and back-up medical assistance. countries, as well as assistance in the event of natural and technological disasters.
Are the streets flooded and families need to reach safe ground? Forest fires threatening residential neighborhoods and evacuation orders given? Often, an adult in a bright yellow shirt will be there to help. The tasks of the SAR team can range from assisting in natural disasters, assisting park wardens and reminding visitors of the rules, to assisting in a medical emergency.
“Burns – poisoning and falling in campfires, as well as sunburn – scorpion bites, feet cut off when walking on broken glass, dehydration … We have emergency medical responders, paramedics on hand”, said Patty Polish, LCSAR division commander, of the most common ones. tasks the team performs during periods of hot weather.
It is not always in times of crisis that members of the SAR team are activated. Prevention is a key part of the team’s mission and was the focus of efforts throughout Memorial Day weekend at the Lahontan Lake Recreation Area.
“We’re here to help,” Fernley SAR volunteer Melody Stehwien said as she walked through camping areas and a dozen beaches around the lake. The retired police officer has spent his time patrolling the sand dunes and countless gravel roads to help train a new SAR volunteer, Erik Cleveland. “We’re here because we (park visitors) want to have fun and we want them to be safe.”
The recent hot holiday weekend – one of the first after COVID restrictions were lifted – has encouraged thousands to flock to the sandy beaches of Lahontan. Hundreds of people took advantage of the boats and personal watercraft, and groups of families waded and swam in the lake. Kids chased lizards, families walked the trails, and the smell of barbecues filled the air at noon on Saturday.
“I love the outdoors and have always loved it,” Stehwien said, then stopped to wave at three children who told him they were chasing a lizard up a tree. “I love what I do. I spent 39 years in law enforcement. I have always loved helping people.
Preventing the tragedy was the top priority this weekend in Lahontan. Early Saturday morning, a 25-member SAR team set up a station in the back of an old ambulance so they could properly supply and equip children under the age of 14 with free life jackets. About 400 vests were to be distributed Sunday afternoon.
“Oh, these guys have little ones,” Stehwien said, as she maneuvered her old model Sheriff’s SUV towards a campsite. “Hello! I just wanted to let you know that we have life jackets in Day Use (zone) and are giving them out for free and fitting the kids. Have a great weekend!”
In its 12th grade, Project Life Vest was created after a young boy drowned in the lake a dozen years ago. Soon after, the SAR team started raising funds to buy and distribute free life jackets, and since the start of the project, “no child has drowned in Lahontan,” Polish said.
“We’re here to help, and Project Life Vest is just one way,” Polish said. “We have teams on the ground, on (all-terrain vehicles) and on the boat, which is especially important this year as the water is low and that means all the landmarks are different.”
Low lake levels mean previously invisible water hazards may be present, including vegetation reaching and obstructing boat engines and newly formed sand bars that can put swimmers at risk.
“I almost drowned in this lake when I was a 9-year-old girl,” said Nikki Lynch, SAR volunteer, who works as a school bus driver in Lyon County during the week.
Lynch spent several hours outfitting the youths with life jackets at a table between the boat launch and the day-use areas, while her husband, Sgt. Dan Lynch flew a drone by the lake.
“When I (almost drowned) this water shocked me; took my breath away, ”Lynch said. “I kept taking water and my mother’s boyfriend saved me. This lake is easy to drown because it has a lot of sandbanks, rapid falls. You can be in the lake, stand on a sand bar, and walk two feet and fall. The lake changes with all the wind. The wind blows all the sand, and that changes.
Parents were very receptive to the project, which included educating caregivers on how to fit and adjust life jackets. A lot of people buy bigger devices, thinking a child will “grow up in them,” Parish said. However, an ill-fitting vest can slip right over a child’s head and eliminate preventative safety measures. After learning how to safely prepare their children for water play, many parents have thanked the SAR team time and time again.
“You are amazing guys!” Kenny Harding from Reno told Stehwien and Cleveland. Members of the RAD had stopped to visit Harding, who was setting up camp. Harding told them that some of his camping gear was stolen from his vehicle outside a store in Reno, and he expressed his gratitude to SAR for the opportunity to receive life jackets for his school-age children. “It’s the best lake ever. It’s so awesome. Thank you.”
Andrea Ditchey of Dayton brought her two sons, Charlie McDonald, 7, and Dylan McDonald, 5, to be fitted with life jackets. After adjusting the vest straps, a SAR member gently lifted each child about six inches off the ground. The vest stayed in place and did not budge, indicating a perfect fit.
“The sheriff just told us when we pulled up and I thought it was really good because the (life jacket) I bought from Dylan was way too big,” Ditchey said.
The boys laughed at the attention given to them, thanked the volunteers and headed for the lake.