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About Us

The St. Louis County Sheriff's Volunteer Rescue Squad has provided rescue services and disaster relief within our county for over 60 years.

The St. Louis County Volunteer Rescue Squad was founded on August 23, 1958, by three men: Fred Van Derwalker, Donald Isakson, and Roderick Appleby.

The unit they envisioned was one of volunteer private citizens, who, in their free time, would train extensively in various aspects of rescue work, searches, first aid, and accident prevention by public education.

On August 23, 1958, this group of men approached Sheriff Sam Owens with the idea of forming such a rescue unit for St. Louis County. They were informed by the County Attorney that state legislation was required to authorize the county to accept such a unit.


Wilderness Searches

The Rescue squad conducts searches in the wilderness areas of St. Louis County, and in neighboring counties when requested. Subjects include lost or missing hunters, hikers, berry-pickers, campers, canoeists, and downed aircraft. The Rescue Squad also assists sheriff's deputies in locating evidence such as weapons and stolen property.

Wilderness Rescues

The Rescue Squad performs Locate/Access/Stabilize/Transport (LAST) services for victims of snowmobile and ATV accidents, as well as other medical and trauma emergencies that occur in wilderness and backwoods areas.

High-Level/Steep Angle Rescues

The Rescue Squad is equipped and trained in the use of a variety of rappelling, lowering, and hauling systems. These range from simple one-to-one (1:1) systems for bringing a car accident patient up an embankment, to vertical pick-offs for stranded rock climbers.

Aircraft Crash Rescue/Recovery/Security

The Rescue Squad will locate, access, and if necessary, extricate, treat, and transport victims and patients of aircraft crashes. They also assist deputies in maintaining perimeter security until NTSB and FAA investigators arrive on-scene.

Search and Rescue Instruction

The Rescue Squad offers an excellent competency-based Land Navigation course that is approved by the State of Minnesota for Law Enforcement continuing education. This course is designed to accommodate all skill levels from novice to expert, and has been administered to game wardens, law enforcement officers, and tactical response team members, as well as the general public. The Rescue Squad also conducts training on Wilderness Search Techniques to EMS agencies throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and provinces of Canada.


Underwater Recovery Operations

The primary activity on the water is fatality recovery, using a combination of dragging and diving techniques to recover submerged victims of swimming and boating mishaps. In recent years, underwater cameras, side-scan sonar, and cadaver dogs have been added to assist in rapidly locating victims. The Rescue Squad also searches for submerged physical evidence from crimes (weapons, vehicles, etc.).

Water/Ice Rescue Operations

Although this role has been largely taken over by local first responders (due to their proximity to the incident scene), the Rescue Squad is still often the primary agency in capsizings, strandings, and medical emergencies in areas which are accessible only by boat.

Watercraft Accident Investigation

Rescue Squad personnel assist deputies in follow-up investigations of water related accidents.

Resort/Rental Boat Inspections

Every spring and summer, Rescue Squad members visit area resorts and outfitters, inspecting their rental equipment for serviceability.

Water Rescue/Recovery Instruction

As with Wilderness Search Techniques instruction, the Rescue Squad also provides classroom training to area EMS agencies on the topics of Water/Ice Rescue and Recovery.


Patient Extrication

The Rescue Squad is the primary response unit for townships that have no extrication capabilities, and the secondary response unit for those that do. Extrication involves the use of hand and power tools to free patients and victims who are trapped by wreckage or other obstacles.

Emergency Medical First Response

All members are trained in emergency medicine to at least the First Responder Level, with many holding Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Paramedic certifications. The Rescue Squad is the primary response agency for townships with no First Responder network of their own, and is the secondary response unit for those that do.

Aircraft Landing Zone Set-up

With the excellent First Responder coverage provided by local townships, and the long distances frequently encountered, Rescue Squad members often arrive on the scene of an emergency to find the medical treatment well in hand. Helicopter evacuation is often needed at these emergencies, and Rescue Squad members are trained in Aircraft Landing Zone (ALZ) set-up, as well as Latitude/Longitude navigation. Additionally, every Rescue Squad member is issued a handheld GPS unit and is trained in its use.

Traffic Control

Members are trained to safely, efficiently, and effectively direct traffic. Besides assisting deputies with traffic control at accident scenes, we provide assistance at special events, such as Grandma’s Marathon, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon and the Duluth Airshow.

First Aid Standbys

The Rescue Squad provides standby first-aid services for several public events every year, such as softball and hockey tournaments, horse shows, fishing contests, and the St. Louis County Fair.

Disaster/MCI Response

When major disasters occur, such as tornadoes or commercial plane crashes, the entire EMS network swings into action.

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