Josephine County takes on new search and rescue recruits

The Josephine County Search and Rescue Team is made up of 75 volunteers. (Josephine County SAR)

As the only paid member of the Josephine County Search and Rescue team, Dep. Cory Krauss stood in front off a room full of new trainees.

"This is what Josephine County Search and Rescue does," he said. Then he began his presentation.

Tuesday marked the start of the team's annual training session, an 80-some-odd hour course that readies volunteers to join search and rescue efforts over many weeks.

Once that training is completed, SAR volunteers will be on call 24/7, helping to fulfill the team's motto: 'So others may live.'

"They are essential. It's been all volunteer since it's beginning," said Krauss, explaining that JOCO SAR has been around for 50 years.

Seventy-five volunteers make up the team. Without them, the division would cease to exist.

"There's no way. We put in so many hours," said Ruth Sears, who joined SAR 16 years ago. Since then, she's assisted with hundreds of calls and has helped save dozens of lives.

In 2018 alone, SAR volunteers put in 11,152 hours. They've worked 2,578 hours so far in 2019, some of which were part of multiple snow rescues over the past two weeks.

"It's just very rewarding. I don't understand people who don't want to get up in the middle of the night in the rain, and tromp through the poison oak in the steep and the mud," laughed Sears.

For her, the SAR team has become a second family, but she said her volunteer job is much more than that.

"We really do save people, or at least return them to their families," she said.

Sears is certified in rope rescues-- just one of specialized divisions within the department. Some volunteers also specialize in SAR's dive team, K-9 unit, equestrian team, ATV group, drone program or communications crew.

While the team's primary focus is in Josephine County, they also assist with SAR missions in neighboring counties in Oregon and California. That included helping residents in Douglas County's most recent snow storm.

The team is no longer accepting volunteers for 2019, as their annual training season has already begun. Anyone interested in joining next year's program can learn more information by contacting the Josephine County Sheriff's Office at (541) 474-5123.

Krauss also recommended that prospective volunteers outside of Josephine County consider participating in their local search and rescue teams.

"I couldn't imagine what it would be without the volunteers," he said.

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