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Search & Rescue

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All 58 Counties in the State of California are mandated by Government Code to have a Search and Rescue Team to look for lost persons with in the County. Sheriff Varney provides a wide range of Search and Rescue services to the residents and visitors of Madera County.

The Search and Rescue (SAR) Unit works under the Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services.

The Mission of the SAR Unit is to:

  • Provide Emergency Services to Citizens and Visitors of Madera County who are lost, stranded or injured.
  • Provide services necessary to rescue such persons and provide them appropriate medical care
  • Handle all search and rescue operations in a professional manner

Our mission of saving lives is accomplished through the support of highly trained volunteers and S

worn Deputy Sheriff's. The SAR Unit is overseen by a Sheriff’s Commander, Sheriff’s OES Sergeant, and 10 Deputy Sheriffs. Although the Sheriff’s Office coordinates the Search and Rescue Unit, without the participation of volunteers, the highly effective and professional Search and Rescue teams that make up the unit would not be possible. The SAR Unit has over 100 volunteers. Currently, the SAR Unit runs about 85 SAR Calls per year. 

SAR Rope Rescue


Missions can happen any place and at any time. Missions can take our SAR Members from the valley floor all the way to Ritter Mountain, the highest peak in Madera County just under 14,000 Feet. Our members enjoy variety opportunities from riding in military Blackhawk helicopters to hanging off granite cliffs. Parts of Madera County are even on the eastern side of the Sierra such as Devils Postpile National Monument, Reds Meadow, Rainbow Falls, Pacific Crest Trail, and John Muir Trail.


Examples of typical rescue missions handled by the Unit are:  

  • Search for lost/injured skiers both at resorts and back country.
  • Respond to plane crashes in wilderness or in lakes and/or ponds.
  • Injured hikers on several United States Forest Service Trails
  • River rescues in local streams/rivers.


    SAR Training

Mutual Aid

We do Mutual aid too! The basic concept of mutual aid is neighbor helping neighbor. When other Sheriff’s Office’s are in need of Search and Rescue help, we respond. Madera County has sent SAR Members as far north as Nevada County and as far south as Riverside County. Our Members get the opportunity of traveling to help other agencies such as Yosemite National Park. 

 CHP H40 Training

Specialty Teams

Within the SAR Unit, the Sheriff’s Office has specialty groups who participate in more than the Standard SAR Training. Some of those teams are:

  • · Type 1 Ground Searcher (Elevation 7000+ Ft)
  • · Type 2 Ground Searcher (Elevations 7000 Ft to 3000 Ft)
  • · Type 3 Ground Searcher (Elevation - 3000 Ft to 0 Ft)
  • · Type 4 Ground Searcher (Urban Setting)
  • · 4X4 Team
  • · Overhead Team
  • · K-9 Team
  • · Operation Lost and Found Team
  • · Logistics Team
  • · Snowmobile Team
  • · Technical Rope/Swift Water Team
  • · OHV Team

SAR Angel Falls

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