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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SAR Business is Picking Up

Compared to past winters since I've been on the Coconino County Sheriff's Search and Rescue (Coco SAR) team, this last one was relatively quiet. Not nearly as many call-outs as the year before, for sure. But now that spring has sprung in northern Arizona, the calls are coming more frequently.

After the successful all-night search in Sedona, there was another call-out just a couple of days later, this one for the rescue of three stranded hikers in Sycamore Canyon, at least one of whom was suffering from a heat-related illness. Eight SAR volunteers responded to the area, while a DPS helicopter was on its way. The helicopter crew located the subjects and lowered food, water, and a handheld radio to the young men, the latter so SAR could keep in contact with them. They didn't have enough of a cellphone signal in the canyon to make a voice call, but one of them had apparently been able to send a text message to a family member, who had then contacted 9-1-1.

I was not able to respond to the mission that night, but I talked to a team member who was there and was told the hikers had run out of food and water and eventually light. With the one hiker being ill and without provisions, they'd been unable to keep moving. After being hydrated and re-fueled by the DPS crew and later, when search and rescue reached them on foot, given more food and water and warm clothes, they were able to slowly hiked out with our team.

Then, yesterday, the start of the Memorial Day weekend, there were two calls, one a search for a dementia patient and another for a technical rescue near Supai at Mooney Falls, which is down in the Grand Canyon on reservation land, not in the National Park. I was on a recreational hike at the time, quite a distance from my vehicle and then a long drive from Flagstaff, so again, I was unable to respond.

The first mission, however, was soon called off because the subject was located and transported by EMS. I don't yet know what happened with the Mooney Falls mission, other than the fact that, when the call-out was made, a DPS helicopter was already en route. For those familiar with the area, you know that Flagstaff is a long way from Hualapai Hilltop, the trailhead for Supai and, from there, Mooney Falls. Our response time would be very long. But I'll update you when I learn more.

And here I sit at home, listening to wind blow up to 65mph gusts outside my office window, hanging around doing computer work and reading until the next call-out comes in. If... or, more likely, when it comes, I'll be going.