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Behind The Badge: Patrolling Utah’s canyons

Behind the Badge

UTAH (ABC4) – When the snow creates problems along Utah’s canyons, one police squad is always there to help.

Avalanches, lost skiers, car crashes, you name it, the Unified Police Canyon Patrol Unit handles it. We take a closer look at the unit in this edition of Behind the Badge.

On winter days when Utah’s mountains come crashing down, the Unified Police Canyon Patrol Unit (CPU) is there to answer the call.

“You want to be the guy trying to help fix it, and it can turn on you pretty quick,” said Sgt. Mike Hill, Unified Police Canyon Patrol Unit.

Unified Sgt. Mike Hill tells ABC4 belonging to the CPU comes with inherent risk. All year round, they respond to dangerous emergencies up Salt Lake County’s major canyons, like search and rescue missions, instant rockslides, countless car slide-offs, and of course avalanches.

“Little Cottonwood Canyon, for example, that road has more avalanches that go across it than anywhere else in the world,” said Hill.

During last week’s snowstorms, ABC4 caught up with the Canyon Patrol shortly after they closed down Big Cottonwood Canyon, and told drivers now parked in the middle of the road to turn around. This time of year, they tend to rescue drivers who are ill-equipped to handle the canyons’ icy conditions.

“A lot of people will try to go up there thinking they can make it with just an average tire and I got myself stuck twice this morning, with good tires and four-wheel drive,” Hill said.

At times, a successful day’s work can simply be returning home.

“An old, retired canyon officer is kind of legendary because he was caught in seven different avalanches himself,” said Hill.

Their job is to make sure everyone headed up the canyons comes back safely. Hill said all it takes is for one car to be stuck in the wrong place, and it can turn into a rough day for a lot of people.

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