On a Tuesday morning in June, experienced hiker Stan Reese set out on a solo 4 day hike in the mountainous area outside of San Bernardino, California. Everything was going great until day three of his hike. As Reese started to hike towards San Gorgonian Mountain, he looked over his left shoulder to the north and saw heavy smoke. Being a southern California resident, he knew that meant a wildfire had broken out and he would need to abandon his plans immediately.
Reese quickly returned to his campsite, crammed all of his stuff into his pack and started to hike out of the increasingly dangerous area. He visualized the direction of the fire and felt there was no immediate risk in his plan since the smoke was pushing to the east and away from where his car was parked.
Unfortunately, after only a few minutes into his accelerated exit he came to an abrupt halt seeing that the fire had shifted and was only about 30 minutes directly ahead of where he was headed…the fire had blocked his only way out by foot. Reese had no choice but to reverse course and high tail it back to a dry lake bed he had stumbled onto on his way out. Once he got to the lake bed, Reese knew that the best option he had to get out of this jam was to push the SOS button on his SPOT Gen3®…something he had never done in all the years he’d owned and carried it with him.
Within 2 hours of his SPOT device alerting GEOS International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center (IERCC) and transmitting his GPS coordinates, a San Bernardino Sheriff’s helicopter was circling overhead. “I remembered the sheriff’s communicating to me through the loud speaker to gather my stuff and that they would be back to get me shorty,” Reese stated. Due to the erratic winds, the helicopter had to burn fuel to reduce the weight for safety. Reese was also instructed to abandon all of his belongings
(except for his wallet and keys) before they landed to pick him up to help with the weight.
The chopper flight out wasn’t a picnic either. The pilot told Reese that this was not a standard take off and that they would have to travel through the ravine of the fire. Reese was obviously relieved when all of them made it out safely – although he never doubted it – and says there’s no way he’ll ever hike without his SPOT.
All of us at SPOT are happy Reese is safe and are honored to have been able help get him rescued.