County’s search helicopter raising money to stay aloft

EVERETT — This time it’s the rescuers who need a helping hand.

The Snohomish County sheriff’s helicopter rescue crew is looking for donations as a major source of funding runs out.

The expected expiration of a federal timber tax means an estimated $130,000 annual loss for the team. In the past, that money went toward helicopter repairs, maintenance and fuel, sheriff’s chief pilot Bill Quistorf said this week. The sheriff’s office pays another $450,000 a year for staffing, including the dive team, and other costs.

The helicopter team works search-and-rescue operations around the region. The missions often involve finding people who are hurt or lost in the wilderness. The team is critical in times of natural disasters, and is called out when children or older people go missing. The search-and-rescue team has responded to more than 130 incidents so far this year.

The helicopter’s rescue hoist is due for an overhaul next year, and that’s expected to cost $65,000.

The team has asked the county’s elected leaders for additional funding in next year’s budget to make up for the lost funds. They’re also trying to identify potential state or federal dollars, air support unit sheriff’s Sgt. Danny Wikstrom said.

“We’re looking at what alternatives are out there,” he said.

In the meantime, the team’s volunteers have started a fundraising effort that includes a benefit dinner in April.

They’re selling T-shirts at www.supportthelastresort.com and via a Facebook page, “Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team.”

The details of the benefit dinner are being worked out, said Miles Mcdonough, who volunteers as a sheriff’s helicopter rescue technician and with Everett Mountain Rescue.

Mcdonough himself was rescued in 2011 after a harrowing 70-foot fall on Mount Stuart in Chelan County. The helicopter team reached him and got him to a hospital in less than 24 hours.

The Seattle Mountaineers and the American Alpine Club have donated a venue for the dinner, he said. About 350 tickets should go on sale in the coming weeks.

The rescue volunteers are looking for people willing to donate professional services for the event, such as catering or marketing, Mcdonough said. They also are seeking the donation of auction items, especially those involving outdoor experiences.

The rugged North Cascades are a popular place to play, and in times of trouble, the rescue team may be the only resource for help, Mcdonough said.

“We feel it’s extremely important to have a safety net available to people when they have an accident,” he said. “It can happen anytime. It just happens to take place far removed from our normal emergency services.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

Snohomish County Search &Rescue is a private nonprofit that works closely with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. The team is made up of about 300 volunteers and is headquartered at Taylor’s Landing in Snohomish. As of late August, sheriff’s employees assigned to the team logged 745 hours on rescue calls. Volunteers logged 4,737 hours.

For more information about their fundraising efforts, go to http://scvsar.org/ or call 425-388-3328.make up for the lost funds. They’re also trying to identify potential state or federal dollars, air support unit sheriff’s Sgt. Danny Wikstrom said.

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