Aug 202006
 
Authors: Garrett Fitzgerald The Rocky Mountain Collegian

While many enjoy the outdoors each year, it is inevitable that at least some of those people will become trapped, stranded, hurt or lost. That’s where John Lee comes in.

Lee, a member of the Larimer County Search and Rescue team, has rescued fallen hikers, lost hunters and even a stranded University of Colorado-Boulder student or two.

“I’ve never rescued a CSU student in the time I’ve been on the team,” Lee said. “But I guess that’s a good thing for CSU.”

Lee, LCSAR’s public education director, manned a booth at NewWestFest this weekend. There, the team searched for funds trapped in the pockets of the community.

The team of more than 100 people is almost entirely volunteers, with only four full-time employees.

During the summer months, Lee’s team becomes especially busy.

“It’s been a very busy summer,” he said. “We have had four rescues in the past three weeks.”

And not even their fund-raising events take members of the search team away from their main focus. LCSAR had to dispatch 13 people, including some of those volunteering at NewWestFest, to Long’s Peak to help a hiker who fell.

Lee, 36, manages Larimer County’s computer networks, but he’ll stay on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for the LCSAR. He carries a pager.

“We’ll send out a page, and whoever can respond responds,” he said.

Before becoming a member of the LCSAR, Lee had a career in the military, but the backgrounds of the other team members vary from mechanical engineers to attorneys and artists, according to the LCSAR Web site.

Beyond the backcountry work of hiking, climbing and searching, a good deal of Lee’s volunteer time is spent at public events and fund-raisers such as the festival.

“John’s been great,” said Mike Fink, a spokesman for LCSAR. “He organizes all of our parades, and in-school education programs (for local kids) and our free classes on public safety.”

But the real draw for the volunteers like Lee is the personal reward.

“Helping people,” he said. “The majority of the (volunteers) simply want to help people.”

Staff writer Garrett Fitzgerald can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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