JaCo Search and Rescue teams back from Washington mudslide

, Written by Kassi Nelson, Posted: Wed, April 9 2014 at 7:34 PM, Updated: Wed, April 9 2014 at 10:06 PM

Medford, Ore. -- Two teams of Jackson County Volunteer Search and Rescue Canine Units are back home today after three days of searching for human remains in Oso, Washington. The town was devastated by a deadly mudslide that killed dozens of people two weeks ago. 

Mike Evans and his golden retriever, Lily worked beside Eric Ronemus and his yellow lab, Abby. 

"These dogs are trained to sniff for human scent," Evans said.

Called man's best friend, the dogs worked to do everything they could to help their human counterparts.

"I don't think you can help but be affected by the sense of sorrow and sadness because you're in an area where dozens had lost lives," Evans said.

The area, Ronemus said, was worse than what they saw on the news.

"At first it was overwhelming. You just kind of realize how much destruction had happened," he said.

The two anticipated the call the moment they heard the reports. They said their canine companions are perfect for this type of action.

"For them this is a game they've learned to equate scents with rewards," Ronemus said.

The Jackson County Search and Rescue members were just two of six area teams who assisted with the mudslide. Teams from Josephine County, Douglas County, and California Oregon Regional Search and Rescue helped as well. Ten people still need to be recovered.

When they found something a whistle blew, and a moment of silence followed, reminding the men why they were there.

"Whenever that happened chills went up my back and it reminded me why we were there," Ronemus said.

The tragedy left the teams looking for hope and inspiration. They found it in the efforts of men and women who had lost everything but still came to help.

"I came away from there with a real sense of hope for the resiliency of the human spirit," Evans said.


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About the Author

Kassi Nelson

NBC5 News reporter Kassi Nelson was born and raised in Nebraska. She graduated from the journalism school at University of Nebraska Lincoln where she studied broadcasting.

She also studied philosophy in the Czech Republic. Kassi has visited nine other countries including Sochi, Russia, where she reported on the preparations for the 2014 Olympic Games.

She loves skiing and live concerts!

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