Volunteer team is dedicated to helping Valley neighbors

The following article first appeared in the Ojai Valley News on Wednesday, October 21, 1992. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Volunteer team is dedicated to helping Valley neighbors
by
CANDACE LAWSON
OJAI VALLEY NEWS

Drew Mashburn, Carl Hofmeister, and Jim Wright are members of the Upper Ojai Search and Rescue team. The team’s 18 members are dedicated to helping their neighbors and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

Since the 1950’s, Upper Ojai rancher Carl Hofmeister and a group of Valley volunteers have worked as partners with the Sheriff’s Department in an important capacity — as a trained search and rescue team that regularly finds lost hikers, saves victims of hard to reach accidents, and plucks drowning or stranded people from raging rivers or flood waters.

Hofmeister, a man of few, but well chosen, words only smiles and shakes his head when you ask him how long he’s been doing this kind of thing. Hofmeister organized the group “many years ago,” even before the Sheriff’s Department became involved, to help his fellow Valley residents. The Valley was less populated and more isolated at that time.

“If someone gets hurt, you can’t run off and leave them, you have to help them. It gets in your blood,” Hofmeister, the Captain of the Upper Ojai Search and Rescue team said.

Today the team is officially organized through the Sheriff’s Department, who supplies them with rescue equipment, including two trucks kept at Hofmeister’s Upper Ojai ranch, and monthly training.

The 18-member team is called in by the Sheriff’s Department when special rescue skills are required. Some examples of their work include being called if a car is over the side of a mountain road, if an organized search is required to find a lost or injured hiker, if a victim or body must be recovered and transported out of a remote location, either by helicopter or overland, or if a plane wreck must be located.

The Upper Ojai team is one of four in the county. Other squads include the Fillmore, East Valley and Dive teams. The Upper Ojai team is traditionally the busiest, with the Los Padres mountains close by. Hofmeister says the team can get called up as often as two or three times each month. But in slower times, for instance during the summer, calls can be fewer and further between.

Members’ training includes CPR and first aid. Some of the members, who come from all walks of life including ranchers, optometrists, attorneys, and county parks employees, are trained as emergency medical technicians.

But they all receive special training — from how to tie a proper knot to rigging pulley systems to lift someone out of a tight situation.

Drew Mashburn has been on the team for just over a year, and has been impressed with how much there is to learn. He says he’s just now getting more comfortable with his training and skills.

Mashburn said the team’s most common rescue results from people just not being prepared when they go out into the wilderness.

“Many times people bring these things on themselves. They don’t let people know where they are going, and they don’t wear proper clothing and get caught in inclement weather,” Mashburn said. “Even in Ojai in August, you should bring a windbreaker when you go hiking — you never know when you could fall and break a leg and get stuck overnight in bad weather.”

Many people don’t even realize the team exists, or that it’s a strictly volunteer enterprise, Mashburn said. But the team is now seeking community support so they can make an important capital purchase — beepers to notify members when they need to assemble for an emergency response.

“We are trying to upgrade our unit, and one of our biggest problems is slow response time,” Jim Wright, a 23-year veteran of the team said.

“When we have an emergency, the Sheriff’s department calls Carl, and then he goes through the phone list and calls everyone else. Than can take 20 or 30 minutes, but if we had pagers that went off we could respond immediately,” Wright said.

The pagers have been priced at about $2,500. And to help raise the funds in these days of tight county budgets, the Search and Rescue Team is hosting a benefit barbeque at the Upper Ojai’s Summit School this Saturday.

The $12 donation gets you top-sirloin steak with a soda and all the trimmings. Children under 12 will be served hot dogs and hamburgers free of charge.

For tickets and information call 646-2496 or 525-7943.

SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM ORGANIZATION UNDERWAY

The following article first appeared on the front page of the Thursday, November 28, 1957 edition of “THE OJAI”. “THE OJAI” is now the “Ojai Valley News”. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown.

SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM ORGANIZATION UNDERWAY

The first steps in organizing an Ojai Search and Rescue Team to aid in searching for persons lost in Ventura County’s wilderness areas were taken Saturday evening by a small group of Valley men experienced in riding and hiking in the back country.

Prompted by the two recent deaths of persons lost in the Ojai area, the group met at the Sarzotti Park scouthouse to formulate the basic plans for an organization trained to cope with all types of search and rescue operations.

Although specifically designated as an independent team, not directly connected with any particular law enforcement or government agency, the unit would be at the disposal of any such agency needing its services.

The team would be divided into mounted (horse) and foot groups with each having a separate experienced and selected “special” unit.

The “general” groups would be open to anyone wishing to participate but would be used only for searches in the immediate Ojai Valley area during daylight hours. No special equipment would be required and it is expected that organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Ojai Trails Association, and Thacher School would join as individual units.

The “special” mounted and foot units will be limited to persons experienced in riding or hiking in the mountains and those with their own equipment for remaining in the back country from one to three days. This membership will also be limited to persons with their own trailering facilities and those who are prepared to leave their employment on short notice for a period of from one to three days.

These “special” units would be called upon for search or rescue operations in isolated areas, regardless of season or time of day or night and must be prepared to reach a base camp with their own transportation.

Neither group would operate as a “posse” or have any blanket law enforcement powers.

In any search and rescue operations in Ventura County’s huge unincorporated regions, the organization would work directly under Capt. Guy Fremlin of the sheriff’s office, who was recently appointed to head all such operations in the county.

Representatives of the Ojai Valley Search and Rescue team met with Capt. Fremlin earlier to work out details of cooperation between his office and the team.

The members of the “special” foot unit will probably be taken from experienced Explorer and Sea Scout groups and supplemented with adult leaders.

It is also hoped that a Scout mobile canteen, capable of feeding up to 300 people, will be made available for use at base camps, and that a separate Red Cross unit can be added later. All members of the “special” units will be urged to take or renew Red Cross first aid training.

The organization also plans to accumulate its own special rescue equipment and already has obtained a “basket-type” stretcher for carrying injured persons out of mountainous areas. Donations may be sought at a later date to help increase the amount of equipment.

A BASKET-STRETCHER of the type used to carry injured persons out of mountain areas is examined by a group of Valley men meeting last Saturday evening to organize an Ojai Search and Rescue Team to aid in hunting for lost persons n Ventura County. The stretcher was donated to the new group by a local scout troop. Applications are now being sought for membership in the Team and will be divided into mounted and foot units. An attempt is being made to organize the units on the basis of ability to provide immediate aid to any county agency needing help in search or rescue operations. From left to right are: Jack Huyler, Bill Bowie, Jesse Kahle, Frank Rio (behind stretcher), Ado Ruiz, Dwayne Bower, and Bud Bower. The Ojai Staff Photo

A series of practice drills for the “special” units will probably be held each year with simulated searches into the mountain areas.

Saturday’s organizational meeting resulted in creation of a table of organization for the team in which at least three persons were named to each office so as to guarantee uninterrupted operation should key personnel be unavailable at the time of a search.

Heading the overall operation of the team will be William Bowie, Ado Ruiz, and Bill Klamser, Jr. The mounted groups will be under Jack Huyler, Bud Bower, Gene Meadows and Jesse Kahle and Bowie said that leaders of the foot groups will be announced later.

A telephone system of relaying calls of members was established so that once the initial call from Capt. Fremlin or some other agency reaches the Ojai Police Department, a complete mobilization of the team can be made on short notice.

The team will also make itself available to Ojai area civil defense director James Alcorn, for use in the event of any major disaster in this area.

Application forms along with letters of information about the team will be distributed late this week and may be obtained at the Ojai city Hall or the Ojai Publishing Co. by anyone interested in joining the organization. Further information on the team may be had by phoning any of the three organizational directors listed above.

Ranger Bald was a man among men

The following article was printed in the Ojai Valley News probably in the 1960’s or 1970’s because that’s when the author (Ed Wenig) wrote for the newspaper. This article is reprinted here with the permission of the Ojai Valley News.

Ranger Bald was a man among men

An erect, elderly gentleman riding a spirited horse down Ojai Ave. to the post office was a familiar figure to residents of the valley in the 1940’s. Dismounting, he would swing into the post office on crutches, collect his mail, remount, and ride away to his apartment in the olive mill on the street that today bears his name.

Industrious, hard-working Geo. Bald come to the Ojai Valley in 1886 at the age of 22. He found his first job setting out orange trees for Edward Thacher on the land which is now known as the Topa Topa Ranch.

In 1891 George Bald married Miss Catherine Clark, the sister of the famous stagecoach driver, Tom Clark. The two went to the state of Washington to make their home for a decade. Returning to the Ojai Valley in 1900, Bald became operator of the Ojai olive mill, a new and promising industry. In the few years of its operation it was estimated that 11,000 gallons of oil were sold.

About 1902 George Bald decided to become a forest ranger. His headquarters were in Nordhoff, and his territory included the Ojai Valley, Sespe Hot Springs, Mutah, and Sespe Gorge to the Lockwood Valley.

Three trails

For the next 19 years he carved out trails on the steep mountain sides in winter and patrolled his area for fires in summer. Three well-known trails he built were the Topa Topa Trail, the Ocean View Trail, and the Pratt Trail. The last-mentioned trail was financed by Charles M. Pratt, Standard Oil executive who lived on North Foothill Road, at which point the trail began. Sometimes a trail 10 miles long had to be made to reach a place only two miles distant “as the crow flies”.

Fire-fighting, too was a strenuous job for Forest Ranger Bald in the days before the development of modern fire control apparatus and improved systems of communication. When fire or smoke was observed from his lookout or camp, he would tie onto his saddle a bag of barley for his horse, lunch for himself, his fire-fighting tools, which consisted of a rake, shovel, mattock and axe, and ride off to locate the trouble spot.

For these duties he received about $60 a month from which he was expected to purchase his provisions and clothing, and grain for his horse.

In 1921 George Bald was offered the superintendency of the biggest, and often called the best, orange grove in the valley — the very orchard he had helped plant in the eighties. For the next 15 years he devoted all his efforts to the well-known Topa Topa fruit ranch. When his wife died in 1936, and the Topa Topa ranch was sold in the same year, George Bald retired and went to live in an apartment in the old olive mill.


Ranger George Bald riding in the center in the back country.

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