ST. ANTHONY (KIDK/KXPI) - It is a thankless job and they do it voluntarily. Often times, they will be out in the snowy weather, below zero, putting their own lives at risk. KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz spent part of the afternoon with members of the Fremont County Search & Rescue to see why they do it and to "Pay It Forward."
"We've got one goal in mind and that is get that person home," said Justin Liebert. He's been the commander of two years and with the unit for nine years.
Whether the search be in the summer, winter, or even on the water, they are ready to go.
"This is our equipment trailer. We've got all our rope gear in here. We've got climbing gear. We've got generators, chain saws, shovels. We've got to be ready to go at a moment's notice," said Liebert.
With 26 senior members and seven junior, Fremont County Search & Rescue covers 1,800 square miles, almost the size of Delaware according to Liebert. And because the coverage area is a recreational tourist attraction, they are one of the most busy search and rescues in the entire country. Twenty-eight searches in 2016. Liebert said they've had as many as 50 in year.
"We are busy. It's a moment's notice. We can just never plan for anything. So we've got be trained, prepared for everything we go into." Liebert said the unsung heroes are the wives and families at home.
"We can be sitting down and eating dinner and we're outta there," said Liebert.
So considering all this and the fact it's voluntary, why do they do it?
"There's a satisfaction that we all get of the reward we get when we send someone back to their families. That keeps me coming back," said Liebert.
Jerah Martindale has been part of the unit for more than 10 years. He agrees.
"Just to help people you know. We all get ourselves in a bad way and it's nice there are people out there that will come to our rescue. The biggest thing is my wife honestly doesn't worry because she knows that our number one thing is we all have each other's back in this unit," said Martindale.
Time to "Pay It Forward."
"It's always nice to see it end good. We're always prepared for the worst case scenario," said Liebert.
"Justin, how are you?" said Kory Carling, walking in and interrupting the interview.
"Good," said Liebert.
"Good. I'm Kory and I'm with Mountain America Credit Union. The Fremont County Search & Rescue has doing so much good for the community and you guys have donated so much of your time that we are here today to 'Pay It Forward.' I'm here today and I've brought $500 in cash," said Carling.
"Oh, wow!" exclaimed Liebert.
"That I wanted you to put forth to your organization to continue to serve our community and save lives. So thank you. Thank you for all you do for our community," said Carling.
"Thank you. Thank you. That's going to go a long ways. We appreciate that. Thank you very much," said Liebert.
"You're welcome. it's our pleasure to be a part of what you do," said Carling.
"This right here (holding up the money) is what keeps us moving, keeps the gear that we need, keeps my guys safe. That's appreciated. Thank you very much," said Liebert.
"You're welcome," said Carling.
"I can't say it enough. I know my unit members, if everybody was here, they'd have the same feeling. It's a tingle you know. It's a good feeling to know that we've got people out in the community that recognize what we do and support us," said Liebert.
The Fremont County Search & Rescue was out on a search the night before this interview. The unit was formed in 1975 just before the Teton Dam disaster.
The volunteers pay for themselves. The sheriff pays for fuel and the state of Idaho reimburses the volunteers if they use their own equipment and fuel, but that money goes right back into the unit as a donation from the members. They do hold a yearly demolition derby in August as a fundraiser.
"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday and Thursday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "Pay It Forward" on the right side of our website and fill out the form, or send an email to Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz at firstname.lastname@example.org.