The mission of Custer County Search and Rescue, Inc. (CCSAR) is the search, rescue, and/or recovery of a person or persons who have become lost, incapacitated, or deceased in Custer County, Colorado. CCSAR also provides support services to other counties in co-operation with Colorado Search and Rescue Board, Civilian Emergency Response Teams (CERT), Medical First Response, mutual aid, and evacuation. CCSAR operates under the direction of the Custer County Sheriff’s Office.
Pre-1975: There was little need for a trained SAR in those times. Sheriff Stan DePriest and a couple of part time deputies directed EMS with one ambulance, the volunteer fire department and no SAR. We did have the rare climbing incident on the Needles and a few lost or injured hunters each year. There was almost no back country usage except locals going fishing to a lake. Stan would mobilize a few ranchers, usually with horses, for these rare searches or rescue. If something serious happened on Crestone Needle, the Sheriff would contact Alpine or Rocky Mountain Rescue for help, waiting a day or so for them to get here. This would not be acceptable when usage and accidents increased in later years.
In the mid-70’s Gary Ziegler was acting sheriff and improved the EMS organization. There were several climbers living around the county then. Gary was trained in mountain rescue and alpine technical climbing, having instructed the Peace Corps, Army units and then currently guiding/instructing for Colorado Outward Bound. He formed a sort of hasty team of climbers who could get quickly up on a mountain with radio and emergency kit to stabilize the injured while awaiting an outside team to arrive. By then Ft Carson was giving helicopter support helping to shorten response time in some situations
CCSAR was incorporated on March 29, 1976 by Ken Perschbacher, Ziegler and seven others.
The Civil Air Patrol was a major activity in the early going. Roger McDonnell, a retired lawman and member of the CAP, became a valuable asset to the SAR team, bringing connections, experience and energy. Both he and Sheriff Jobe, the current Custer County Sheriff, were pilots, keeping planes at the local airfield. This gave CCSAR the capacity for aerial reconnaissance.
CCSAR went inactive in 1983 and then was reactivated in 1987 by Ken Perschbacher.
Art Nordyke joined with a passion for snow cats and winter sorties. The unit soon had a team of dedicated winter rescuers equipped with snowmobiles headed up by Art. This, along with others on skis and snowshoes, added a year-round winter capability.