On Tuesday, March 14, 2023, at about 5:45 p.m., Calaveras County Sheriff’s Dispatch received a cellular 911 call from a resident of Sheep Ranch. The caller explained that he was experiencing an emergency related to his health and that he and his wife were trapped in their residence due to his impassible driveway. The nearly two-mile-long driveway was reportedly blocked by a seasonal creek that was running at flood stage through it. Additionally, the caller reported that his generator had run out of fuel, and his cell phone was nearly out of battery. The call was dropped during the conversation, and dispatch could not recontact the caller.
Emergency personnel from the Central Fire District and medics from American Legion Ambulance were dispatched to the scene. Central Fire District employees recognized that the driveway section leading to the river crossing was muddy and steep and chose to walk to the river for inspection. It was quickly discovered that the driveway with the river flowing over it was not passable using a conventional vehicle.
At about 6:40 p.m., the Calaveras County Search and Rescue Team was dispatched to the location along with Sheriff’s Deputies to attempt to establish a route across the river. While en route, the Sheriff’s Office requested the assistance of the Calaveras Consolidated Fire Protection District’s specialized engine-propelled inflatable boat.
A Unified Command structure was established, and after analysis of the creek, it was determined that the creek’s water flow where it crossed the driveway was too great to allow for the water to be crossed by boat or swimmer.
The Calaveras County Office of Emergency Services and the California Office of Emergency Services were contacted with a request for resources. A UH60 Blackhawk helicopter and two LMTV high water vehicles were dispatched from the California National Guard after exploring and exhausting numerous other possibilities. The rescue plan consisted of attempting to have medical personnel access the residence by helicopter while the high-water vehicles were dispatched as a contingency.
At about 10:15 p.m., the Blackhawk helicopter was inbound to Calaveras County. However, a particularly severe thunderstorm delayed its arrival until 2:00 a.m. Wednesday, March 15th. The helicopter could not lower a medic to the residence in the darkness due to the thick ground-level fog which had formed after the passing of the thunderstorm. The high-water crossing vehicles arrived on scene at about 2:45 a.m. and departed towards the residence after being loaded with medically trained Search and Rescue members and a Sheriff’s Deputy.
The vehicles successfully crossed the river and continued towards the residence until they were stopped by a series of trees that had fallen and blocked the mile-long portion of the driveway between the creek crossing and the residence. Rescuers were forced to walk the remainder of the distance while the trees were cut out of the roadway by other members of the rescue effort.
Ultimately, rescuers arrived at the residence at about 4:30 a.m., when the patient was contacted and determined to require transportation to the awaiting ambulance. The high-water crossing vehicles were able to access the residence after the trees were removed from the roadway in a collective effort by all the rescuers. This effort included the Deputy Sheriff using a chainsaw which he borrowed from the resident to assist in clearing the roadway.
At about 5:15 a.m., the patient successfully arrived at the awaiting ambulance and was transported to an area hospital.
In total, the rescue effort involved:
1 Fire engine and staff from Central Fire
1 rescue boat and staff from Calaveras Consolidated Fire
1 ambulance and staff from American Legion Ambulance
15 Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team members, including one paramedic, 2 EMTs, specially trained swift water rescue technicians, and a specialized whitewater boat, plus Calaveras County Sheriff’s Deputies and command staff
1 Blackhawk UH60 Helicopter and five members of the 3/C Company 2-135th Army Aviation Support Facility
2 LMTV high-water vehicles and four members of the 2632nd Transportation Company of the California National Guard.
The Calaveras County Sheriff’s office extends its deepest appreciation to all of the above people and agencies who assisted in this mission. The collective effort resulted in a successful outcome for a Calaveras County resident.
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