It's missing- and injured-hiker season in Southern California. The story of teenagers Kyndall Jack and Nicholas Cendoya, rescued after three nights in the Orange County wilderness, is one of several this spring involving hikers who pushed their GPS systems or bodies too far afield. A teenage hiker died over the weekend in Eaton Canyon.
In fact, nearly every week so far this year we've seen reports by L.A. city or county rescuers about hikers in distress. What gives?
Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey tells the Weekly it seems like there have been “more prominent” calls for help lately, but he emphasizes that 'tis the season for these kinds of reports:
We see an increase every year in spring as the weather turns nice.
But Humphrey also thinks hiking is becoming more popular thanks, in part, to marketing. “Some have said modern advertising makes us think we should go out and stand alone at the top of a rock,” he said.
The LAFD responded to 114 hiker incidents last year. The L.A. County Sheriff's Department, which deploys volunteers to such calls, said in a statement …
… there were 560 search and rescue activations last year just for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The people who were rescued came from all of the world, yet most were local; none ever expected their lives to be at such risk, or to need to be rescued. Many nearly lost their lives.
Humphrey says the taxpayers are stuck with the bill for such rescues in the city, except when ambulances are needed (patients are billed for those), and except in rare cases where the City Attorney's office alleges someone has been reckless and should pay.
Some hikers think that GPS-equipped phones will help them: He says some victims have let fellow hikers pass them by and elected to call 911 instead of asking for immediate help.
In the case of Kyndall Jack and Nicholas Cendoya, there has been some criticism of the duo for getting lost in Trabuco Canyon following a simple “Easter adventure” two weekends ago.
“People call us and get angry” when hikers cost taxpayers money, Humphrey says.
We all pay for hikers who can't handle their business.
On Friday [correction: This happened Friday, March 22] a teenage girl died and three others rescued after all of them fell down a mountainside in an attempt to hike to the second waterfall at Eaton Canyon, which county authorities warn is impossible.
Yesterday the LAFD responded to hikers in distress at Veterans Memorial Park. On Saturday four hikers had to be airlifted to safety after becoming lost near 13000 Sayre Street, according to the department.
We've found LAFD reports of injured hikers or hikers in distress on March 29, March 18, March 13, March 10, March 1, Feb. 27, Feb. 10, Feb. 2, Feb. 1, Jan. 21, Jan. 18, Jan. 14, Jan. 13 and into December.
Hikers have even died recently in Griffith Park, well within view of “civilization,” Humphrey notes. And so Humphrey and sheriff's officials have some tips for would-be hikers:
-Travel with a friend or friends. Never go alone.
-Have a hiking plan and give it to a loved one before you go.
-Give your loved one a list (with phone numbers) of people who will be with you.
-Always keep a charged cellphone with you.
In other words, don't be an idiot. The sheriff's department:
… Full time rescuers from sheriff's departments and fire departments fly and drive and hike and swim and rapel in to effect rescues on a regular basis.