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Smokies search and rescue gets a boost

Friends of the Smokies and its supporters have raised $89,000 this year to fund search and rescue efforts in the Smokies.

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, the nonprofit handed over the keys to a 2021 Dodge Ram 1500 truck, a gift that comes on the heels of a trailer that Friends donated in 2019 for use as a mobile command post for active searches. 

“Our gratitude is enormous,” Chief Ranger Lisa Hendy said following the presentation. “I got here about a year and a half ago, and one of the things I was tasked with was expanding our capabilities to respond to search and rescue cases. But the best way to do that is to just reduce the number of search and rescue incidents.”

The truck will be instrumental for Emergency Manager Liz Hall’s efforts to build up the park’s preventative search and rescue program, which will use volunteers to help educate and prepare hikers, thus preventing emergency situations before they occur. Hall will drive the truck in the course of running her preventative program but will also use it to haul the trailer in response to emergency situations. 

Of the $89,000, hikers Chris Ford and Nancy East contributed $30,000 following a three-week fundraising hike they completed this fall traversing all 900 miles of trail within park boundaries. 

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