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Training new generations of backcountry rescuers in Alaska

 Dean Knapp trains Alaska Mountain Rescue Group members in Eagle River Saturday, March 7. (KTUU)
Dean Knapp trains Alaska Mountain Rescue Group members in Eagle River Saturday, March 7. (KTUU) (KTUU)
Published: Mar. 7, 2020 at 12:14 PM AKST
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He’s spent 21 years rescuing people in the Alaskan backcountry.

But Dean Knapp says his knees are bad and it’s time to pass his knowledge on to a new generation of backcountry rescuers.

“We’re all volunteers, and we’re always looking for more people with good knees who can go out in the woods and search,” Knapp said.

With mountain rescue groups in Sitka and Juneau covering Southeast Alaska, Knapp says that leaves the rest of the state for the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group (AMRG).

“And it’s a big state,” Knapp said, with a slight smile to accent the obvious understatement.

Knapp says he’s been on hundreds of missions with AMRG, an Alaska nonprofit assisting state and federal agencies in search and rescue since 1960. He says in 60 years AMRG has an 84 percent success rate in finding and bringing people back alive.

There are 50 active AMRG rescuers responding to about 20 search-and-rescue calls per year. Accessing Alaska’s rugged backcountry terrain is a feat better left for fresh legs, Knapp says.

24-year-old Samuel Henderson, of Anchorage, has been with AMRG for a year and a half. He says it’s important for young people to keep the AMRG tradition of voluntary search and rescue alive.

“I wanted to give back to the community and be able to keep people safe out on the trails,” Henderson said. “The same way I would hope someone would come and rescue me if I was ever in trouble.”

The group spent Saturday training in a wilderness search scenario in Eagle River. It was their final field training before members take their re-certification testing in late March.

For more information on AMRG or to become a member click

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