Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers were presented with 15 high-performance search and rescue jackets by donors to support field rangers in inclement weather. Rangers respond to approximately 100 search and rescue incidents annually, many of which occur during hazardous weather conditions in the backcounty.
Local community members in Sevier County led efforts to raise funds for the park’s search and rescue operations through a crossfit competition event, Mountainfit Throwdown, held at Outdoors in the Smokies in March. In addition, recently rescued Eric Keller, and his wife Diane Petrilla, made a donation in gratitude of the care Keller received through his 36-hour rescue from Mt. Le Conte in April 2015.
“After going through Eric’s frightening medical situation at the top of Mt. Le Conte, we were overwhelmed with appreciation for the professionalism and warmth provided by the National Park Service rangers and the Gatlinburg medic,” said Petrilla. “We are honored to give a donation in expression of our gratitude to help these very special rangers continue to do their jobs in challenging conditions.”
Through this generous donation, the park was able to secure 15 jackets specifically designed for extreme conditions including prolonged rains and extremely cold temperatures. The reflective, yellow jackets also provide high visibility to aid in air-rescue operations. The jackets are rainproof, windproof, and durable for backcountry conditions.
“Our rangers respond to assist people in need across the park in a variety of hazardous weather conditions,” said Acting Chief Ranger Steve Kloster. “We do our best to ensure our rangers have what they need to accomplish their duties safely and this gift better enables our staff to protect themselves in extreme conditions.”
The park has approximately 40 park rangers with a primary duty to aid in search and rescue operations. Many of these rangers receive additional, specialized training for technical rescues, water rescues, and air operations. These jackets are being distributed to rangers who most frequently respond to rescues during hazardous conditions throughout the year.