Canyon patrol team dedicated to back country rescue

FARMINGTON — Davis County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Ditolla gave up his career teaching at the University of Utah to rescue people.
Ditolla joined the sheriff’s office two years ago and is one of four officers who make up the sheriff’s canyon patrol team. Ditolla had taught at the U of U’s Centers for Emergency program.
“It sounds cheesy, but when I was a teenager I pulled a boy who was drowning out of a lake and since then, I wanted a career where I could help people,” Ditolla said. “It’s an unbelievable high when you can rescue someone.”
Ditolla joined deputies Jason Sorensen, Greg Murray and Cory Cox. Two years ago, the sheriff’s office formed the canyon patrol team after receiving a federal grant of $7,500, which paid for equipment and some training.
At least one member of the team patrols the back country beginning in May until the end of October.
The team does not replace the sheriff’s Search and Rescue team, said Davis County Sheriff’s Sgt. Susan Poulsen.
“They are the experts,” Poulsen said.
The canyon patrol team trains once a week with the all-volunteer search and rescue team.
The canyon patrol team are the first responders who travel the canyon roads almost daily on almost every shift. The county has contracted for many years with the U.S. Forest Service to patrol the national forest lands above Davis County, Poulsen said.
Before the patrol was formed, all the deputies took turns patrolling the back country.
Having four deputies specifically assigned to patrol the area is an asset to the county, Poulsen said.
“There’s so much area in the mountains that we run the risk of our own deputies getting lost,” Poulsen said.
Sorensen, who has been with the sheriff’s office for the past 14 years, said he loves the back country.
The biggest problem deputies run across is underage drinking. The biggest challenge is that, when they do come across a group of teenagers drinking, the nearest back-up is usually 45 minutes away, Murray said.
And the time it takes for an ambulance or helicopter to arrive at an accident scene is also just as long, Murray said.
“It’s a big difference up here versus down there,” Murray said from Farmington Canyon.
If they come across a vehicle that has gone over a cliff, they are the ones who begin setting up the ropes for rescue. Search and rescue team members are volunteers and sometimes it takes awhile for them to arrive.
Because the four deputies train with the search and rescue team members, the search and rescue team is confident that the deputies know how to set up the basic rope system.
“Search and rescue do the actual rescue, we’re there to assist,” Sorensen said.
“We just hope by being here we’re making a difference and that translates into saving lives,” Murray said.
DCSO’s Canyon Patrol Unit is getting ready for the Fourth of July holiday coming up.  In anticipation of the holiday, Canyon Patrol refreshed their training on rappelling.  On this day, Standard Examiner Reporter, Loretta Park and photographer, Nick Short, were on scene to do a story on our Canyon Patrol.

Our newest member of the Canyon Patrol is Deputy Mike Ditolla, sets up the rigging for the descent.

Canyon Patrol Deputies Greg Murray and Jason Sorensen prepare for their descent.

Not used to being in the story.   Smile Loretta . . .

Working together to set up a rigging.

Deputy Murray

Preparing to rappell off the bridge, it is a multi-facetted descent.  They must take into account all factors, including the raging river below them. 

Getting ready
Come on, Loretta, you want to rappell, right?
This is how you do it.


Deputy Ditolla securing photographer, Nick, so he can get the right shot.

Come on, guys.  Look up at the camera.
One down, but ready for another.

Heading over for another go at it.

Being a photographer is sometimes a dirty job.

Look up . . .

 I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking.
See you in the canyons on the Fourth of July!

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