About Pinal SAR
As defined by Arizona State Statute ( ARS 11-411), the responsibility to conduct or coordinate search and rescue operations involving the life or health of any person falls upon the sheriff of that county and such operations shall be conducted under the direction of the sheriff’s office. The statute further states that the sheriff may assist in such operations in another county at the request of that county's sheriff and may request assistance from any persons or agencies in the fulfillment of duties under this subsection.
The Pinal County Search and Rescue (SAR) Unit, is under the special operations division, and consist of a full-time Sergeant, Doug Peoble and five full-time deputy SAR Coordinators. The SAR Unit conducts day and night mobile SAR operations, sometimes during adverse weather conditions, in both urban and wilderness environments. The SAR Unit searches for lost or missing persons to include children, and vulnerable adults. We are often called to assist injured hikers and hunters in remote treacherous terrains. Deputies are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and respond at a moment's notice to provide assistances in a crisis.
The SAR Unit is specialized in rope rescue services, including high and low-angle rope rescue, and swift water rescue. Deputies also have extensive training in human and vehicle tracking for law enforcement or civilian applications. The extensive training required for these highly skilled services ensure our SAR deputies are prepared to help those that find themselves in a life threatening situation. The SAR Unit coordinates with the Pinal County SAR Posse, made up of dedicated volunteers who respond day and night to assist with search and rescue call outs.
Rescue Missions: In the last two years our calls for service have switched from a majority of Search missions to Rescue missions. They take place during all hours and times of the year. These missions are critical because the patient is in need of some type of medical attention and the “Golden Hour” is difficult to accomplish. These range from unprepared hikers to extreme dehydration or severe fall injuries. For this reason every one of the Search and Rescue deputies are mandated to complete and maintain an Emergency Medical Technician certification.
Technical Rescues: Rescues for free climbers, base jumpers, or off trail hikers can lead to high and low angle rope rescues requiring special equipment for rappelling or Helicopter rappelling. Every Search and Rescue Deputy is required to be certified in Ropes Rescue 1, 2, and 3.
Swift Water Rescue & Recovery: Pinal County has a labyrinth of canals travelling through our county. We have conducted rescues and recoveries in canals for criminals who try to evade law enforcement, undocumented immigrants who are trapped in canals, unfortunate civilians who fall in, and occasionally homicide victims.
The monsoon season presents unique challenges for SAR. In a short amount of time a large amount of rainfall upwards of 3 inches in an hour can fall on the hard dry desert floor causing runoff into washes and riverbeds which are dry for a large portion of the year. These washes and riverbeds swell quickly trapping and sometimes wash away victims. SAR has conducted Swift water Rescue missions for these types of incidents. In order to safely and effectively respond and rescue these victims, SAR members receive training in Swift Water Rescue.
Confined Space Rescue: Pinal County has hundreds of mining claims most of which are abandoned. We also have a few natural caves which are explored by civilians year round. A few times a year we receive rescue missions for persons who are overdue, trapped or injured in these areas. SAR is required to respond and rescue victims utilizing specialized training and rope rescue techniques outlined below.
Off-road Accidents & Recovery: With the popularity of ATV and UTV vehicles in combination with Arizona’s good weather and hundreds of miles of off road trails; SAR conducts missions for stranded and wrecked motorists. Cottonwood Canyon, Rug Hill, Pickett Post, Charouleau Gap, and Box Canyon are popular areas SAR conducts missions. Every SAR Deputy is equipped with a four wheel drive vehicle and they have access to two UTV side by side vehicles. Every SAR Deputy is trained in ATV and four wheel drive.
Body Recovery: One of the unfortunate responsibilities of SAR is remote or technical body recoveries. SAR has been called to areas all over the county to recover victims of the elements, vehicle crashes, aviation crashes, and drowning to name a few. A large number of these recoveries require the use of rope rescue. Thanksgiving 2012, was one of the unfortunate calls SAR took during the recovery of 2 pilots and three children who were tragically killed in a twin engine plane crash in the Superstition Mountains. Along with recovering the bodies of the victims, the crime scene had to be secured for the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct their investigation. This incident took a total of four days to complete for SAR.
Additional SAR Unit Responsibilities:
Rural Patrol: SAR patrols all rural areas in the county. In these areas SAR makes contact with local ranchers and farmers and provides the primary law enforcement response for these citizens. SAR conducts off road and ATV enforcement along with illegal shooting details. The unit also has conducted investigations and assisting federal agencies with illegal mining & prospecting.
Patrol Assists: SAR is also responsible for providing assistance to patrol for any calls for service requiring the special needs or training SAR can provide. This may include tracking, off road response where patrol may not be able to access, and coordinating large response efforts. Some members of the SAR Unit are also CART Team members.
CIB Assist: SAR assists with CIB searching for victims and evidence in desert areas, ponds, and canals within Pinal County. SAR utilized HRD to help assist homicide detectives and recovery of human remains in rural parts of the county.
Smuggling & Interdiction: SAR is the primary unit in the assistance with anti-smuggling operations in the desert areas within Pinal County. The Unit is able to respond and work any situation in the high intensity drug areas due to the training and equipment that each team member carries with them at all times. SAR has been called upon in several situations to locate and attempt to treat subjects who have been shot due a rip crew involvement in the deserts.
Trailing Hound: The Pinal County Sheriff Office purchased a trailing hound 3 years ago. The hound is named Amos. Amos is a male Bloodhound Red bone cross and was purchased from a vendor in Douglas, Arizona. Amos and his handler Deputy Jeff Love are certified in trailing I, II through ACPA (Arizona Canine Police Association). Trailing I means that the canine is certified in trailing in rural areas, trailing II means that the canine has certified in trailing in urban areas. Amos has had eight successful finding in his time working in SAR. Amos has been to calls throughout the state to include supporting the surrounding counties on a regular basis. The longest find for Amos is 3.62 miles. Deputy Love keeps up training and certificates for Amos. Deputy Love & Amos train with Arizona Department of Corrections.
Large Scale Incidents (fires, flooding, natural disasters): SAR Deputies are often tasked to take over large scale incident scenes. SAR Deputies have the most experienced when dealing with ICS system. Pinal County has experienced fires in rural areas which have threatened rural communities like the Bullock fire in Oracle and the Kearny River Fire. During these incidents SAR Deputies took over as Incident Commanders. SAR Deputies are the department personnel who keep track of billing and reimbursement for all personnel who respond for assisting during these large scale events.
Training: Every Deputy on SAR is a General Instructor. SAR is tasked with assisting the training unit with Firearms in-service training and qualifications. SAR assists either as role-players or safety coordinators in most other training in which the member may not have a specialty certificate. Three of the six SAR Deputies are AZ POST certified firearms instructors.