Training Day: A day with Durango Fire & Rescue


Durango, Colorado is as I have said multiple times, nothing but a big adult playground. Whether you are going hiking, mountain climbing, snow shoeing, ice climbing, skiing, or just out for a drive there are many dangers that you will face around every turn. The backcountry, while breathtakingly beautiful, are equally dangerous, and accidents are bound to happen, but when they do you can bet the volunteers of the Durango Fire & Rescue, La Plata County Search & Rescue, San Juan County Search & Rescue will be there to get you home. Unfortunately, I know this first hand as I got stuck in the middle of a bad snow storm at the beginning of last year's winter. Stuck in a deep rut in the road, and close to 8 inches of snow on the ground with more and more coming, I had no choice but to call and be rescued. My situation was no where near life and death and I wasn't hurt, but I was scared just the same. Luckily for me, I was able to get cell service and call 911 and after a few attempts by the Sheriff's Department to reach me, they finally called in the heroes of the search and rescue team. My misadventure was a costly one, but one I am here to tell about thanks to the brave men that came out in a blizzard on a snowmobile to rescue me. So when I was asked by fellow photographer to help him photograph the Durango Fire & Rescue, La Plata County Search & Rescue, San Juan County Search & Rescue I jumped at the chance to return the favor. The rescue teams were doing a training exercise at a popular rock climbing spot and they needed some photos for future training purposes.

We showed up ahead of the training teams and set up for a fast paced event as the training was going to be done in real time. Volunteers from all three local Search and Rescue teams gave up this beautiful Saturday morning so they could be properly trained in the techniques needed to save lives and make adventuring in the Durango/Silverton area less worrisome than it already is. As the teams arrived, I could not be more impressed at the seriousness, devotion, and skill all the volunteers were showing. The technical end of what happens is way beyond my knowledge, I was asked by my fellow photographer how much "Mountaineering" experience I had and I couldn't help but laugh when I replied, "Uh none," climbing up mountains and repelling down cliffs is not something they teach the youths in metro NJ so I was delegated to the "topside" and left safely away from the very drop off the cliff. Even though I was roped in, the few shots I got from the cliffs edge, of the rescue at the bottom of the ravine, was one of the more exhilarating moments of my life. In fact I had many moments on this day that I will never forget. The beauty of the mountains in the summer will always be one of my favorite things, but winter in the mountains, while scary, is so tranquil that you forget about all the other problems life has to offer.

My View from "Topside"

One of the many volunteers taking in the view.

Round 2 as one rescue is never enough, the teams prepare to do it again.

Thanks to all the volunteers of the Durango Fire & Rescue, La Plata County Search & Rescue, and San Juan County Search & Rescue teams, your service to the people of our area does not go unnoticed and we can't thank you enough. 

See all the photos from the training session here!