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Avalanche search and rescue crews in Lake Tahoe ready for the unexpected

Lake Tahoe avalanche search and rescue crews prepare for the unexpected
Lake Tahoe avalanche search and rescue crews prepare for the unexpected 02:31

When an avalanche happens anywhere in the Lake Tahoe area, multiple agencies respond and work together to rescue victims and secure the scene.

"This is a backpack that you should carry in the backcountry at least a minimum. It carries a shovel and probe as well. It also has an airbag," said Assistant Fire Chief Russell Barnum with North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.

Barnum says most firefighters in the area are trained in avalanche rescue.

"We have a lot of different ways to get back to the patient," said Barnum. "A lot of the times we use snowshoes. It all depends."

Whenever an incident occurs, multiple agencies respond and work in coordination at the scene.

"Washoe County Search and Rescue and other search and rescues around the Tahoe basin are mostly responsible for going into the backcountry and affecting the rescue," said Barnum. "Our job is to, you know, build a command structure so that they can be facilitated in the things that they need whether it's equipment, personnel, transport to the hospital."

Overall, Barnum says avalanches are rare and when they do happen they usually occur in the backcountry, not at a ski resort.

"The ski patrols do a lot to mitigate avalanche danger. They use hand chargers, they ski cut, they go in and evaluate, said Barnum. "There's a lot of different ways to mitigate avalanches inside the ski area. In the backcountry that's not available."

No matter the incident, the rescue crews out in the Tahoe area are prepared, said Barnum, adding that they're not only skilled at their jobs but have a family-like relationship with every agency in the region.

"You know the person next to you, even the ski patrollers, we know one another and it's great to know that the person that is next to you, that you can trust that's going to be competent and also be safe," he said.

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