Taxpayers Pick Up Cost For Most Hiker Rescues

Taxpayers Pick Up Cost For Most Hiker Rescues

KMIR

Palm Desert, CA

Your tax dollars pay for teachers, law enforcement and first responders, and according to California law they also pay for most search and rescue operations of a stranded hiker. 

"Depending on the circumstances of the rescue, if it entails using a helicopter which is very expensive, you’re looking at a thousand to twelve hundred dollars an hour," said Doug Stevens, a volunteer with the Palm Springs Mounted Police Search and Rescue Team.

According to state law, Riverside county taxpayers are responsible to pay for the cost of search and rescue operations for hikers who get stranded on one of the many trails.

However, there are some conditions that would allow the county of Riverside or the city where the search and rescue took place to send the bill to a rescued hiker.

The hiker would be responsible for the cost of his or her rescue if they knowingly broke a federal or state law and they showed reckless misconduct for their own safety. 

However, even if the hiker meets either of those conditions, collecting payment from them has proven to be a challenge.

"People get parking tickets and they ignore them. It’s kind of the same thing. ‘I can’t afford this.’ And we’ve actually had people tell us if they had to pay, they would find a way out of the hills if we we’re going to charge them. And it was sad because, I mean, people are making a choice, I’d rather die than get help," Stevens said.

So far it appears as though Riverside County has not collected a single dollar.

"I’ve never seen a hiker have to pay a bill yet," said Stevens.