EDITORIAL: Thanks, search volunteers, for answering the call

Sometimes, it’s easy to take for granted what volunteers do for a community. Every one of them deserves appreciation, and that’s particularly true for members of the search and rescue team at the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office.

The story started on a Saturday night recently, when three area residents decided to head out for nighttime activities west of Owyhee Lake. Bailey Frasch, 21, Kasey Mendoza, 27, and Carlos Mendoza, 29, didn’t return as expected, and friends and family worried. They launched their own search the next day. And then they called the professionals.

By then, it was dark, past dinnertime at the homes of volunteers who got the alert. This was Sunday night, just before the start of the workweek, and you can guess most people were tucked comfortably in their homes. But these search and rescue volunteers answered the call.

Organized into two-person teams and working with staff from the sheriff’s office, the volunteers headed across the sage lands. They had no clue where the trio might be in the huge desert landscape.

About 1:30 on Monday morning, friends of the missing people encountered them. According to Sheriff Brian Wolfe, the three had gotten stuck, managed to free themselves and were on their way in. That was the good news.

But teams were still scattered across the territory. Recalling them and accounting for everyone took time. The last of the teams reported back to the sheriff’s office at 5 a.m. That was just hours before some of them had to shed their outdoor gear and get ready for work.

That these teams would spend much of the night roaming the outback looking for people they didn’t know is impressive. For the volunteers, this is what they do. They train endlessly, they spend their own money on gear, and they are – as in this instant – ready to react in a moment as needed. The sheriff’s office counts about 50 volunteers on its search and rescue squad.

On this particular night, the search and rescue members who turned out included Rob Bair, Danny Cone, Dillon Mitchell, Luke Keller, Marvin Seuell, Randy Fales, Sara Laurence, Jon Millison, Betsy English, Toby Hysell, Jeff Ball, Gary McCellan, Randy Belnap.

If you know them and see them, shake their hand and say thanks for what they do. That gesture alone likely will be worth gold to these people.

And while we’re at it, let’s not forget those from the sheriff’s office staff who also put in a sleepless night, including the sheriff himself, Undersheriff Travis Johnson, Brian Belnap, Wade Holom, Bob Speelman, Dave Kesey, Kathy Ross, and Brittney Ross.

And there is one lesson for the rest of us out of this episode. If you think someone’s missing, don’t hesitate to call law enforcement. Let the professionals judge when it’s time to launch a search. The preference, no doubt, is to do it when there is still daylight to burn. – LZ