As SoCal heads into the second weekend of open hiking trails, public safety experts are warning hikers to be careful about the dangers on the trails.
The NBC4 I-Team found that even while the trails were closed, hikers have been getting into hazardous situations and needing emergency crews. The LA County Sheriff Department's Air Rescue 5 is one of the crews that has been involved in the emergency rescues.
"We get a lot of folks who carry a Starbucks cup and some flip flops for a hike," said Joe Palomino of LASD Air Rescue 5. "They are a fish out of water up there and they get stuck or they fall."
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When hiking trails across LA County first re-opened on Mother's Day Weekend, the team was part of half a dozen rescues. That's how many rescues the team sees on an average weekend, even though the number of hikers was estimated to be lower than the usual numbers before the coronavirus pandemic.
Even though the number of hikers on trails is low during the pandemic, more hikers are needing rescues. Rescues were still taking place even when the trails were closed.
"The trail head parking was closed but people were still able to park on the side of the road and access the trails," said Palomino.
The NBC4 I-Team first reported about the record number of search and rescue missions in LA County in 2019. There were 787 rescue missions in 2019 and 723 missions in 2018. Overall there was a nearly 40 percent increase in rescue missions over a five year period.
The crews now have new guidelines to abide by county health orders and approach each rescue with caution amid the pandemic.
"We still don’t know if these are asymptomatic COVID-19 patients so we do approach them as if they have coronavirus," said Palomino. "We leave a mask on the patient, medics still have masks on them."
If you're thinking about going out to hike, the LASD has a hiking plan that can be filled out before you go on a hike. Put the plan on your dashboard and if something happens, rescuers can use the plan if they need to take action.