ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) — The Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue continues to work through intense demand, including a high and frequent number of calls with fewer and fewer volunteers able to respond. Now, some relief is coming their way.
2020 broke records with 174 callouts in the southwestern Utah county, the most recorded by any department in the state. According to Sgt. Darrell Cashin, liaison of the sheriff’s search and rescue, crews saw a 30 percent increase in rescues compared to 2019 amid an unprecedented number of people heading outdoors. It’s a rate emergency crews called unsustainable without more help.
“We were constantly going from one thing to the next, with many days where we had two, three, sometimes even four rescues,” Cashin said. “It was putting a strain on my members.”
Cashin revealed Thursday some promising news coming in April — He tells ABC4 News he’s relieved that the Washington County Commission has agreed to assign two sheriff’s deputies to work underneath him. Although they will have some duties outside of search and rescue, the deputies will switch off covering 12-hour shifts, ready to respond to calls for help.
“They’re going to be working the Desert Reserve area quite a bit,” Cashin said. “Going hand in hand, that’s where a lot of our rescues occur. When we receive calls, they’ll be out working and ready to get rescues set up and handled. That will relieve some of the workload on myself, some of the emergency managers, and some of our lieutenants.”
In the meantime, he says he’s also continuing to work alongside legislators to allow the county to access tourism funds through the transient room tax since more than 60 percent of people needing to be rescued last year were not from the area. It’s an effort to secure more funding to pay and incentivize his 70 dedicated volunteers, Cashin said.
“You can’t keep asking people to leave their jobs and lose money,” Cashin said. “There comes a point where they can’t. We want to make it easier on them to keep coming out.”
2021 has brought 14 rescues in the past six weeks — including four rescues in a single day last Friday. Emergency crews expect calls to only increase as the St. George area continues to grow.