Cliff Rescue Costs Add Up - NBC 7 San Diego

Cliff Rescue Costs Add Up

It's an average of two rescues every month, and the costs add up



    Cliff rescues can be exciting to watch, but they happen pretty often.

    Besides being costly to the taxpayer, they put lives at risk. It's an average of two rescues every month, and the costs add up.

    Emergency crews come to the rescue of all types on the cliffs, from hikers to naked women and even dogs. On Monday, A man was air-lifted from a cliff in Torrey Pines after he fell while climbing on an unmarked trail.

    “Along the coast we range between 40 to 50 cliff rescues every year,” said San Diego Lifeguards Lt. Andy Lerum.

    Cliff Rescue Costs Add Up

    [DGO] Cliff Rescue Costs Add Up
    Lifeguards average two cliff rescues a month.
    (Published Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012)

    While lifeguards are always on duty to help, the fire department says the biggest expense comes from deploying its helicopter. It's not used every time, but the operating cost for it is $3,850 per hour.

    Data was not available for how much was spent in recent years.

    A few San Diego residents said those rescued should pay for the service, or have to pay a fine.

    “I would say for sure, charge'em  because you kinda put yourself in that dumb situation,” said Andrew Gunthardt, a Bay Park resident.

    Officials say people are rarely fined after they've been plucked off the cliff unless there's a blatant violation.

    But some argue it's the biggest potential cost that cannot be calculated: People putting their lives at risk,

     “Rescue work in general is dangerous,” said Lerum. “Cliff rescue is at the high end of the spectrum. Cliff rescue has a higher consequence if something were to occur.”

    Despite danger and expense, lifeguards and emergency crews will continue making rescues, but they hope people will stick to the commonly traveled paths down the cliffs.

    The fire department says the city council approved a charge of up to $3,850 per hour if those rescued were taken to the hospital by helicopter. If the rescue takes less than an hour, that amount will also be less. 

    But the Federal Aviation Administration told them they cannot charge fees since the public already pays for the service.

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