Desert Companion


Red Rock Search and Rescue

The challenge: In January of 2012, Ronald Kirk went missing at Red Rock National Conservation Area. With Kirk’s fitness level and outdoors experience, he could have been almost anywhere in Red Rock. Las Vegas Metro Police Department’s Search and Rescue team spent days looking by land and air before calling off the search due to limited resources.

The local outdoors community, however, was bursting with support. Kirk’s family teamed up with the Hash House Harriers (a local running group of which Kirk was a member) and VegasHikers (a more than 5,000-member local hiking group) to continue scouring the desert. The search went on for weeks, and some days saw more than 100 volunteers show up at Red Rock to lend a hand.

All that help needed someone to organize it, and that’s where volunteer David Cummings stepped in.

[HEAR MORE: Learn  about Red Rock Search and Rescue on “KNPR’s State of Nevada.”]

The solution: The group that led the ragtag volunteers in the search for Ron Kirk became the executive board of Red Rock Search and Rescue, with Cummings as its commander. Their throng of volunteers started training in earnest, forming teams of trackers, technical rescuers, medics and more.

Fast forward nine months later, and the volunteers of Red Rock Search and Rescue, thanks to fundraising and sponsors such as REI and Nevada State Bank, had received more than $500,000 in training. On Sept. 14, as floodwaters from a massive Vegas storm receded, David Cummings received a call over his radio. “Command Post 3, 1144.” 1144 is the radio code for a fatality. The body they’d been searching for, washed away from a golf course during torrential summer rains, had been found. “Over twenty years I have seen countless recoveries,” Cummings wrote on the team’s Facebook page, “but this one was special and it was a test of these novices … A word I will not use again.”

Less than a week later, Cummings and his crew got a call to find a missing hiker at Mt. Charleston. The 47-year-old woman was found in a canyon, given medical aid, and transported to the hospital.

Red Rock Search and Rescue has no plans to rest on their successes. They are currently forming a dive team, a mountain bike team, and are constantly improving the skills of their members. Thanks to donors, all of this is done without any cost to the taxpayer or the victims. To be a part of the action, fill out an application on their website. They also take donations via PayPal and accept material support. ( — Alan Gegax