L.A. County Search and Rescue Missions Were Up Nearly 22 Percent in 2014, Marking Record Year

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Search and Rescue team members work in a file photo from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Search and Rescue team members work in a file photo from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Volunteer Search and Rescue teams performed a record number of missions in Los Angeles County last year, up more than 20 percent from the previous year, authorities said Tuesday.

The increase can be attributed in part to social media and “extreme” videos showing high-risk outdoor activities that prompt inexperienced hikers to attempt feats that get them into trouble, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department news release.

Such videos and social media posts have drawn novices to the upper falls in popular Eaton Canyon, prompting dozens of rescues and five deaths in recent years, authorities have said. The Sheriff’s Department worked with the U.S. Forest Service to shut off access to the scenic falls, in Angeles National Forest above Pasadena, on Aug. 1.

Altadena Mountain Rescue volunteers return after helping to save a group of hikers stranded in Eaton Canyon on Nov. 10, 2014. (Credit: KTLA)

Altadena Mountain Rescue volunteers return after helping to save a group of hikers stranded in Eaton Canyon on Nov. 10, 2014. (Credit: KTLA)

Several of the 597 missions performed by the department’s volunteer Search and Rescue teams in 2014 were in Eaton Canyon, including a dramatic rescue that occurred just two days before the closure went into effect.

The nearly 600 operations in 2014 were up from 491 rescues in 2013, according to the Sheriff’s Department. The spike amounts to nearly 22 percent increase.

Dozens of lives were saved, the department said.

The 2014 rescues included efforts to locate missing hikers, motorcyclists who crashed over the side of highways, cliff rescues and other operations, the Sheriff’s Department said.

One of about 15 missing hikers can be seen being hoisted out of Eaton Canyon by helicopter crews on Nov. 10, 2014.

One of about 15 missing hikers can be seen being hoisted out of Eaton Canyon by helicopter crews on Nov. 10, 2014.

Alongside the full-time paid crew of the department’s Air 5 Rescue helicopter, eight volunteer teams operate on the ground throughout the county, with 170 reserve deputies and civilian volunteers working without pay on rescue operations.

All Search and Rescue volunteers are emergency medical technicians as well as skilled mountaineers, according to the release.