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UPD says search and rescue calls in last month ‘way above average’

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Unified Police said they’ve seen a huge spike in Search and Rescue calls in the past month.

In the past 30 days, SAR has responded to 20 calls.

“That's an extremely high number, that's way above average,” Lieutenant Lex Bell from Unified PD said.

He said they usually see one call every other week during the summer, and that in the three-month season, they don’t even reach 20 calls.

What they handled in the past month has amounted to around three times more calls than normal.

On Wednesday, SAR responded to a hiker who slipped and fell 50 after leaving the trail near Lisa Falls in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

For the year so far, SAR has responded to 35 calls like that one. Lt. Bell said an average 12-month span only sees 40. While there’s no clear answer behind the spike in incidents, Lt. Bell said most of the SAR rescues were completely avoidable.

Just one canyon over, hikers like Samuel Hansen headed up Big Cottonwood Canyon on Wednesday. He brought supplies, as he prepared to lead a group of six to Silver Lake.

“Flashlight just in case,” he said, pulling out a headlamp from his SUV.

Hansen’s gear included proper lighting, food and water. He said he’s experienced hiking mishaps before, like running out of water.

“There's been times where I've gotten lost,” he said.

Officer Brian Weidmer, who is part of the Canyon Patrol for Unified Police, said he sees that too often.

“Maybe lose the trail and it takes longer than they think, and they end up running out of water in the heat,” he explained. “It's one of the challenges that we see.”

That’s why UPD urges hikers to follow several safety tips.

“Be prepared," Weidmer said. "Check the weather. Be aware the heat is a major factor. Make sure you have more water than you think you need. Take shade with you, take a hat with you.”

Plus, he said, plan enough time to make the trip, and never leave the trail.

Hansen said those are steps he and his friends make sure to follow.

“Being mentally prepared before we go out,” he said. “We know which hike it is, we're going with friends. And, we're just planning on having a good time.”