The City of El Paso, Texas, has decided to bill a family of hikers that were rescued out of the Franklin Mountains State Park on Monday. It is the largest urban park in the United States and resides entirely within El Paso. The Franklins are the largest sustained mountain range in Texas, with the summit of North Franklin Peak rising to an elevation of 7,192 feet.
The costs for a search (which are set by city council) are $165 per hour per unit that gets sent out. The cost is based on the number of rescuers who respond to the call and the terrain in which they work. In addition to a core group of responders from the El Paso Fire Department, 20 off-duty members were also called in for assistance. In total, 42 firefighters, search and rescue personnel, and police officers participated in the rescue.
“We don’t normally staff all of our specialty personnel at the same time,” El Paso Fire Department Chief Chris Celaya said.
The family was found after three hours of searching by responders. They had gone hiking in near 100-degree weather without preparing sufficiently–they did not have enough water. Two of the rescued children were airlifted to a local hospital due to medical conditions.
Watch a video and read more about the rescue in the Franklin Mountains here.
There has been debate on hiking discussion boards lately about the costs and efforts of search and rescue responders, and if hikers who call upon their services should be billed. Many states and local first responders are beginning to send bills to hikers that were rescued as a result of their personnel and resources. The state of Colorado has given hikers the option of purchasing an Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue Card. For the cost of the card, you ensure that trained and well-equipped search and rescue teams will respond should you become lost or in need of rescue, and they will not have to incur undue expense due to your emergency. The card does not pay medical transport which includes helicopter flights or ground ambulance. The Colorado Card option has been part of heated debates surrounding the costs of search and rescue operations.