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Sunday, November 18 , 2018, 2:06 pm | Fair with Haze 66º


Stranded Boy Scouts Airlifted Out of Los Padres

Snow and winds hamper rescuers' efforts, but the group of 18 is brought to safety

Shortly before noon Monday, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and Search and Rescue workers airlifted 18 people to safety after they were stranded by raging waters while camping in back country of the Los Padres National Forest.

The group included Boy Scouts and their leaders, 12 children and six adults. No injuries were reported, and helicopters transported the group to Santa Ynez Airport, where they were checked by firefighters for hypothermia. and then to the Veteran’s Memorial Building in Solvang, where the Scouts were reunited with their families.

Search and Rescue teams assisted the stranded group, who were hiking and camping near the Nira Campground, in the Narrows and Fish Camp Areas of Los Padres. At 8:30 a.m. Monday, a 9-1-1 call came in from the area, requesting assistance.

“The Scouts are tired, cold and hungry, and are requiring assistance,” Capt. David Sadecki of the County Fire Department said earlier Monday.

He said water levels from the weekend’s rains caused the river to rise so much that the hikers were unable to cross.

The Scouts were from Camarillo Troop 262 and Lompoc Troop 103.

Snow and winds hounded the area during the rescue, affecting the number of people who could be carried in each helicopter. Four trips were made, two from County Search and Rescue and two from County Fire, to bring the group to safety. The rescues were complete at 11:50 a.m.

Andrew Madsen, a public affairs officer for the Los Padres National Forest, talked with Noozhawk about how the incident could have been avoided.

“There are really simple steps people can take,” he said, adding that forest officials have been “preaching this for years.” One of the first things people can do is check the forecast, and if inclement weather is expected, “don’t go out there.”

The forest has five districts, each with its own office. Madsen encouraged people to call ahead to the district office where they’ll be hiking and ask what the conditions are like and expected to be during the planned hike. The phones are open during regular business hours, and forest officials are willing to help people plan the best time to hike and where. Those contact numbers can be found on the forest’s Web site.

“We just tell folks be cognizant of what the weather forecast is and call ahead to the district office and just ask what are you hearing?” he said. “It equips you with the information to make the best decision.”

Many of the trails are remote, such as the one the Scouts were traveling on, Madsen said. A registry box is located at most of the forest’s trailheads where people are asked to sign their names and how many people are in their party. Madsen said the group of Scouts hadn’t done that before setting off down the trail, making the job of law enforcement in the search more difficult. Operating a helicopter during Monday’s hail and snow also put emergency responders in danger, he said.

“Because the weather is usually so nice, people just blow that part off,” he said. “But the more times we say this message, the more ears it will reach.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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