Butte County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (BCSAR) is an all-volunteer auxiliary unit of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office. Our headquarters, the Lt. Larry Estes Training Center, is located at 3965 Morrow Lane in Chico, near Klean Kanteen. The facility is open to the general public only during the Team’s monthly General Meetings or during special events for the public. General meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. preceded by a classroom team training at 6 p.m.
BCSAR is an all-volunteer team comprised of ordinary citizens of this county, many with full-time jobs. We serve at the discretion and direction of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office. When a “911” call is received requesting our services, pagers throughout the county are triggered and team members leave what they are doing on a moment’s notice to respond to the call. Many times, this summons occurs in the middle of the night. Family is left behind and there is no way of knowing how long we will be gone.
Who We Are
Our team members are an eclectic group from a variety of backgrounds and professions. There is no particular individual that is drawn to search and rescue work. Over half of our members come from Information Technology, Engineering, or sales/business owner’s backgrounds. Some have a background in administration, supervision, or education. The remainder of the team has a background as commercial drivers, contractors, or firefighters. Our team is fortunate that many employers understand the service we provide to the community and often accommodate our need to respond during working hours. We are an amazing cross-section! Only 15% of our team is currently retired. The other 85% juggle the demands of work, family, and BCSAR. We all feel a sincere desire to serve our community.
In terms of demographics, our “average” search and rescue member is 48 years old; the youngest member is 21, the most “seasoned” is 72. Odds are you will meet a male, but 20% of our team is female.
If you’re looking for experience, our team currently has over 200 years of experience with 10 team members having more than 10 years of participation. We are constantly looking for new members who have the time and desire to help!
If all of us were to respond to a call, you would see over 40 search and rescue volunteers. In addition to leaving our home and family members, over 50 pets would also be left waiting for their beloved owner’s return. But not all “pets” are left behind. We have several mission-ready K9’s, who respond to searches with their handler. It is an exciting job for any K9 who earns this privilege. They live for the search mission along with the weekly training opportunities. They quickly learn to recognize the sound of the pager and the sight of the BCSAR uniform.
What We Do
BCSAR has a dual role, which includes both “search” and “rescue”. Our members are required to complete introductory level training in both disciplines. A member is then allowed the freedom to concentrate their training efforts by developing skills necessary to search for a lost victim or skills necessary to rescue those in peril.
We are also a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation with a need to attend to business. Half of our members have served on our Board and taken a leadership position at one time or another. We have the responsibilities for training our members, recruiting new members, providing positive public relations, and maintaining our equipment.
Why We Do This
When asked, “What do you enjoy the most about BCSAR?” many members responded with more than one answer. We are an extremely diverse team of individuals and the camaraderie, friendships, and feeling of “team” or togetherness is significant for almost all members.
The discipline of “search” was important to many with the opportunity to assist someone in need and make a difference. But many also appreciated the puzzle that is presented with each and every search and the opportunity to spend time outdoors in some fabulous locations around our county.
Yes, there is also that sense of excitement and the adrenaline rush when the pager goes off. Many of us get an opportunity to train and do things we wouldn’t normally have a chance to do. Ever want to know what it feels like to “fly” beneath a helicopter, shoot down rapids in just a wetsuit, or watch a K9 solve a problem we can’t even imagine solving? We recognize the importance of training, and training for a variety of situations, so that we are prepared and ready to help when needed.
Overwhelmingly though, the common answer to “why we do this?” is the opportunity to help others in need, particularly when that need may be critical. Our members feel search and rescue work gives them the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to our community and to have a sense of a job well done.