About Coconino County

About Coconino County

Encompassing 18,661 square miles, Coconino County, Arizona, is the second largest county in the U.S. but one of the least populated. Our county includes Grand Canyon National Park, the Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. Elevations range from 2,000 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet at the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff.

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Back Home And Back To SAR

I hadn't planned to respond to any SAR calls for at least a week after coming home from Nepal. I figured I'd take a little break after being on the other side of the planet for a few months, spend some time catching up on my to-do list, reorganize my SAR pack, and generally just chill out.

But I couldn't resist. A couple of days after I got back, when there was a second call-out within a half hour for more volunteers to assist Yavapai County Search and Rescue with a search for a missing two-year-old, I dialed the SAR line after listening to the message and left one of my own. "This is Deb, number 6-2-0. I'm responding."

The call was for the following morning, to meet at the SAR building at 6 a.m. Soon after getting there, I was headed south to Beaver Creek Campground near Sedona with a teammate from general SAR along with a member of the mounted unit and his horse. Coconino County SAR had been assisting with this search for the previous two days, also.

When we got to the staging area and signed in, the three of us were given our assignment: a rather large, rugged area, thick with cat claw and cactus. One boundary of our search area was the creek that runs alongside the campground from which little Sylar Newton had gone missing in the middle of the night a few days earlier.

We searched as thoroughly as we could all day, doing our best to stay hydrated and focused as we dripped with sweat in the intense heat and humidity. We called in anything we found that we thought had any possibility of being important to the mission, giving a description and coordinates to Incident Command. A deputy came out to inspect and collect some of the items we located.

At the end of day four of the search, Syler was still missing. And he's still missing today, the end of day seven.

While this search was going on, members of our team were also helping in neighborhoods east of Flagstaff impacted by flash flooding. These floods are the result of charred soil on the peaks from the huge Schultz wildfire earlier this summer, unable to absorb all of the monsoon rain. That fire was started by an abandoned campfire and burned more than 15,000 acres. The resulting floods have caused extensive property damage to area residents and one death, when a 12-year-old girl was swept away.

On Thursday and Friday, I responded to more calls for SAR assistance in the flood areas, but my contribution (going door-to-door passing out flood advisory information) was minimal compared to the days of neighbors helping neighbors and other Flagstaff residents volunteering to fill and stack sandbags, shovel mud, and anything else they can do help those in need, including some whose homes appear to be a complete loss.

Related article: Rain Outlook Bad For Schultz Flood Area