Above and Beyond: Davidson wins prestigious Bent Piton Award

Leonard and Deb Davidson are Grand County Search and Rescue volunteers who operate Kremmling’s rescue base. Leonard is pictured with his Bent Piton award for duty above and beyond the call of duty.
Leonard and Deb Davidson are Grand County Search and Rescue volunteers who operate Kremmling’s rescue base. Leonard is pictured with his Bent Piton award for duty above and beyond the call of duty.

by Christy Parrott

With just over a year serving the Grand County west area as Search and Rescue responders, Leonard and Deb Davidson have already earned tremendous accolades and respect for their efforts, and rightfully so.

The recently retired couple moved to Kremmling for the small-townatmosphere and accessibility to vast recreational opportunities, and they wanted to give back to the place they call home. The Davidsons bring 30+ years experience in rescue and service, ranging from scouts leadership and ski patrol to search and rescue in Pueblo county.

When the Davidsons realized that the immediate area was without SAR responders, “We started making calls,” Leonard Davidson explains. The couple contacted everyone from the Grand County Sheriff’s Department to Grand County’s Search and Rescue to offer their expertise.

“This is a huge effort on their part,” comments Special Operations Lieutenant Daniel Mayer, of the Grand County Sheriff’s office.

The Davidsons commute weekly for training in Fraser, which includes everything from medical protocol to low/high angle rescues. “We’ve already put over seven thousand miles on our truck,” Leonard Davidson says.

The SAR training allows the Davidsons a wide range of rescue options, including out-of-bound skiers and lost hunters in the winter months, as well as kayakers and hikers throughout the spring and summer. “We get the call, load up, and head out,” Leonard Davidson confirms.

The Davidsons’ accessibility to the west end allows for a much quicker response time. When loved one’s lives are at risk, such timing can be crucial. “We’ve been able to cut down the transit time by about an hour and a half,” Lieutenant Mayer says.

Previously, rescue operations dispatched from Fraser, which could mean extended transit time before responders were able to arrive at the scene, but with the Davidsons based in Kremmling, they’re able to load up and respond to the entire west end of the county. Mike Blevins, President of Grand County SAR says, “Residents of the western part of the county are very fortunate to have a team like them located in Kremmling.”

Before the Davidsons volunteered, the west end of the county was without immediately available SAR trucks or services. SAR volunteers and members live throughout the county in Winter Park, Fraser, Granby, Grand Lake and Tabernash and responded in times of need, and Grand County Search and Rescue stationed the equipment where volunteers would be ready and able to use it. However, once Leonard and Deb Davidson stepped up, Kremmling received both the space and equipment the west end of the county desperately needed. Now Kremmling has a fully operational rescue base similar to the one used in the Grand Lake area.

When asked to confirm that the Davidsons re-established SAR presence at the Grand County West Complex, Lieutenant Mayer answered with a resounding, “Yes.”

“There wasn’t a truck for so long,” Lieutenant Mayer explains. “We pushed for it, but there weren’t any members. It’s been nice to get our station back.”

Not only do the Davidsons volunteer their time training and rescuing folks in need, they, along with mechanic Charlie Shy, also maintain the fullyoutfitted truck, snowmobiles, ATVs and supplies. “We have everything ready for when we get the call to go out,” Deb Davidson assures. Grand County Search and Rescue member Greg Foley shares, “They do the other stuff that has to get done, truck maintenance, bookkeeping, even janitorial work. They really helped over the summer with river rescues and more recently, with a lost snowmobiler on Rabbit Ears Pass and another Rabbit Ears mission on Saturday night to help rescue a broken rib patient.”

The Davidsons and Grand County SAR work along with the Back Country Sled team, and experts like Erik Woog. Combined, “They’re an invaluable assets and very willing to do everything that needs to be done,” Lieutenant Mayer appreciates the hard work of everyone involved.

Leonard Davidson elaborates the combined effort: “For forty plus people to come together with different skill sets and work as a team at any given time, location and weather, it’s amazing. We come together and go to work.”

“We just love doing it,” Deb Davidson smiles. “We get dispatched to go anywhere from Fraser to Hot Sulphur to Rabbit Ears.”

The Davidsons’ efforts have earned the prized Bent Piton award for duty above and beyond the call. Recently awarded to Leonard Davidson, the plaque passes annually to a newly awarded member and bears a piece of memorabilia from the previous awardee. Climbing gloves, a compass, pencil and duct tape adorn the award, and Leonard Davidson predicts he’ll add something medical. “It’s an honor,” he says while insisting both he and his wife are a team: “You get one, you get both.”

“This is what we do,” Deb Davidson agrees. The Davidsons average between 40-50 rescue calls per year.

“As a couple, they show more enthusiasm and initiative than any recent additions and display an attitude of service and sacrifice,” Grand County SAR President Blevins confirms.

While Grand County SAR has a large support base, Kremmling immediately relies on a single couple, the Davidsons.

“When the pager goes off the whole GSCAR team is notified, and will respond as needed. SAR missions can only be accomplished by TEAM effort and by getting the necessary gear to a search or rescue location more quickly the team effort is accelerated,” Foley explains. “We’re always looking for new members,” Foley adds. “It’s a time commitment to train and serve the mission, but we provide free training and you get to save a life.”

The Grand County SAR welcomes monetary donations, supplies (helmets, medical equipment, gear), and time. For more information, go to grandcountysar.com or email greg.foley@grandcountysar.com.