After years of gliding to rescues on their snowmobiles, members of Fremont County Search and Rescue will power through ice and snow this coming winter in a newly acquired 1977 Tucker Sno-Cat.
The Fremont County Board of Commissioners paid $22,000 for the vehicle June 2. It was purchased from a private seller in Seattle. Sno-Cats are tracked vehicles used to groom trails and travel through snow.
Search and Rescue Cmdr. Brett Mackert said the Sno-Cat can be used in the type of harsh winter conditions he’s seen the past few winters.
“We had several situations last winter where we could have really used a Sno-Cat,” Mackert said. “It allows us to get out of the elements and transport somebody who is wounded or ill.”
County Commissioner Lee Miller called the decision to buy the Sno-Cat a no-brainer.
“You never know when you’re going to need to use a piece of machinery like this,” Miller said. “When it comes to the value of a life, we need to do everything we can.”
In February, Mackert said Search and Rescue had assisted 30 people in 2014.
The 8,000 pound, 18-foot long, 9-foot tall, heated Sno-Cat travels at a speed of about 15 mph. It can hold about five people in its cab.
The operator doesn’t need a special license or training, Mackert said, but only a few Search and Rescue members will be authorized to operate the vehicle.
“It’s not rocket science,” he said.
The goal this summer is to renovate the Sno-Cat, Mackert said.
“We’re going to retrofit the passenger compartment behind the operator and passenger seats to fit more people; and so someone can lie down,” Mackert said. “We’re also going to put in some basic medical supplies, like oxygen tanks. The cab won’t have as much space as an ambulance, but we will be able to medically treat people.”
Renovation costs are estimated at $6,000 to $7,000. Mackert hopes to hold down costs by keeping labor “in-house,” performed by members of the all-volunteer team.
“The Search and Rescue team is a tremendous group of men and women,” Miller said. “They never look for praise, they go about rescuing people the best they can.”