In a middle-of-the-night rescue that took place 1,800-feet down a rugged canyon, North Coast volunteer firefighters and others early Tuesday carried and pulled an injured Cazadero woman to safety.
With light only from headlamps and a few flashlights, they used three ropes, 1,200- to 1,800-feet-long tied to a litter holding the 31-year-old hiker. Six at a time carried the litter and others pulled the ropes to get her up the slippery, unstable hillside, through a heavily forested area and dense brush to a command center set up on Bohan Dillon Road.
"It was one of the most complicated rescues ... in the middle of the night, very treacherous terrain. A couple of our guys fell," said Timber Cove Fire Chief Michael Singer, who helped with the effort.
The rescuers included about a dozen volunteer firefighters from Fort Ross, six from Timber Cove and four Cazadero volunteers as well as a Russian River fire ambulance crew and a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy. Fort Ross Fire Chief Steve Ginesi ran the rescue.
"It was just a very professional and well-orchestrated rescue. Everyone cooperated very well," Singer said.
They'd responded to a 10:15 p.m. call for help from friends of the woman, who'd apparently just moved to the Cazadero area.
She'd gone for a hike Monday afternoon off of remote Bohan Dillan Road, down a ravine leading to the south fork of the Gualala River, said Singer. Come dusk she decided to take a steep shortcut, hoping to get home sooner, she later told the firefighters who saved her.
But she fell, apparently injuring her hip, Singer said.
The Sonoma County sheriff's helicopter wasn't in service Monday and a REACH helicopter was requested from Concord, equipped with night-vision capabilities. But the fog was too thick and the helicopter was unable to help, Singer said.
Searchers had to guess where she might be and walked about a 1-mile stretch of the roadway. "We kept looking and yelling from the road and one of the rescuers went down quite a way and did hear her," Singer said.
The search had taken about two hours. Then they had to set up the rope rescue, down into the darkness about a third of a mile to begin the process of getting her up the hill.
"At three stages we had to stop and re-anchor the rope at a higher point," the chief said.
The rescue was done by about 2:45 a.m. The woman, who wasn't identified, was suffering from the cold. Paramedics examined her and she didn't appear to have any serious injuries. She refused to be taken to a hospital to determine if she needed further aid.
"She offered to make us a cake. She was very grateful, very apologetic to cause us to go through all this," Singer said.
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or email@example.com.
Shelters for Pawnee fire evacuees
Lower Lake High School, 9430 Lake St., Lower Lake, is the official shelter established for people evacuating from the Pawnee fire. It is equipped to handle animals.
The Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge, 15900 E. Highway 20, Clearlake Oaks, is not authorized by the Office of Emergency Services but is also sheltering fire evacuees, mostly people in campers and RVs who want their animals with them.
There is an authorized Lake County animal services station in an open field at Highway 53 and Anderson Ridge Road in Lower Lake.