GOVERNMENTNews ReleasesBlog   

Published on Monday, March 20, 2017

A recap of the remarkable work of the Volunteer Rescue Squad

Sheriff Ross LitmanThe following article was written by Sheriff Ross Litman. It was originally published in the Duluth Budgeteer on March 12, 2017.


Within St. Louis County, we have a remarkable group of highly skilled individuals – currently 64 in all – who provide a level of dedication and service that is almost beyond comprehension. The Sheriff’s Volunteer Rescue Squad is exactly that – a group of volunteers. They don’t get paid, even when called to assist with an emergency in the middle of the night when the temperature is far below zero.

In 2016, Rescue Squad members volunteered a total of 23,242 hours. This included responding to a record 437 calls, a 35 percent increase over their average annual call volume, and 64 calls more than in any previous year.

Among their calls in 2016, the Rescue Squad saw a dramatic increase in the number of wilderness operations: a total of 144 incidents (the previous record was 103) involving 183 people.  This included 72 searches for lost and missing people; 64 wilderness rescues such as trauma and medical emergencies, including 29 snowmobile and ATV accidents; one plane crash, and seven searches for evidence.

Last year was also a busy year for water operations, which includes water fatalities, watercraft accidents, and the water component of wilderness searches and rescues. There were 90 water-related calls in 2016, the second-highest ever for the Rescue Squad. Only 2012, the year of the flood, saw more. Sadly, 10 of those calls involved fatalities – five in St. Louis County and five mutual-aid calls to other agencies.

The Rescue Squad mobilized six times in the wake of major weather events to check on homes and cabins, clear trees and debris, direct traffic, and provide other support.

Perhaps the number we should be most grateful for is 42. That’s how many people were in life-threatening situations and yet are alive today because the Rescue Squad responded and made a critical difference. And that’s just in the last year.

The Rescue Squad has been in existence since 1958, and is currently led by Captain Rick Slatten. The group’s mission is three part: wilderness search and rescue, boat and water safety, and first aid and public safety. Over the years they’ve built a strong reputation for professionalism. They provide an incredible amount of help to our deputy sheriffs, as well as to other police, fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agencies who request their help, both within our County, and throughout the region. For most Rescue Squad members, roughly half their time is spent on actual calls. The other half is spent training – on the skills and specialized equipment needed to fulfill their mission.

The Rescue Squad is always looking for new members. Some people join out of a desire to serve and help. For others, it’s the love of a challenge or to gain new skills and experience. Some members are fresh out of college, others have been with the group for decades.

The Rescue Squad conducts just one fund raising effort each year, via a mailing in the summer, which raises approximately $120,000 a year from St. Louis County residents. Donations to the Rescue Squad are primarily used for equipment and training. The majority of financial support comes through the annual budget process with County Board support and levy funds. The Department of Natural Resources provides some support through boat and water grant funds. Donations to the Rescue Squad are tax deductible, and can be made any time of year. Checks can be mailed to: St. Louis County Sheriff’s Volunteer Rescue Squad, PO Box 16222, Duluth, MN 55816.

You can learn more about the Rescue Squad, what it takes to volunteer, or how you can support them, by calling (218) 625-3961 or on our website. You also can connect with them on Facebook.

Rate this article:
No rating
Comments (0)Number of views (1950)

Author: Dana Kazel

Categories: St. Louis County Spotlight



Leave a comment

Enter the code shown above in the box below.
Add comment

We welcome comments to this blog. Any comments submitted to this page are public records subject to disclosure under public record law(s). Comments expressed on this site do not reflect the opinions and position of St. Louis County government or its employees. All comments will be moderated, which means there may be a time delay between when a comment is submitted and when it appears. Inappropriate comments, comments not topically related, profane or vulgar language, or comments that are discriminatory will be rejected. Likewise, we will not permit comments that are political in nature, libelous, make any type of personal attack, violate copyrights, solicitations, conduct or encourage illegal activity, or that may compromise the safety, security or proceedings of public systems or any criminal or civil investigations.


Public Information
Dana Kazel 
Room 213
100 N 5th Ave W
Duluth, MN 55802
(218) 725-5049
«April 2018»

Take action today for a healthier tomorrow

Jennifer CollardMarch is National Nutrition Month, a great time to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical-activity habits. Public Health Nurse Jennifer Collard offers some tips.

Read more

Land Surveying: then and now, and why it matters

Nick StewartWhat do you think of when you hear the term "land surveyor"? St. Louis County has a busy and productive Land Survey Division, and County Surveyor Nick Stewart describes the work they do.

Read more

County Board honors two for Public Health contributions

As part of National Public Health Week, the St. Louis County Board presented its third annual Public Health Achievement Awards, recognizing the good work of community partners: Heather Hemphill Keely and The Rutabaga Project.

Read more