On Thursday, 7/30/2020, at about 11:24 PM, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office received a call for service reference stranded motorists on the off-highway vehicle trails near Sunset Campground. Sunset Campground is a remote campground in northern Ventura County accessible by experienced dirt bike riders and 4×4 vehicles equipped with significant clearance and appropriate tires. The stranded motorists’ reported that they had driven the Lockwood Creek Trail to the Miller Jeep Trail before their vehicle was rendered inoperable by several flat tires.
Due to the remote area, the motorists’ did not have cellular telephone service and had to hike to find cellular service to call for assistance. The Fillmore Search and Rescue (SAR) Team, which is comprised of highly trained volunteers, was activated and responded to Lockwood Valley. They responded to the Sunset Campground along with a deputy from the Lockwood Valley Sheriff’s Station with numerous all-terrain vehicles to assist in the search.
The Lockwood Valley Sheriff’s Station is outfitted with a Polaris RZR four-seat utility-task vehicle (UTV) that is available for these type of rescues. The deputy utilized the Sheriff’s RZR to drive to Sunset Campground through very rough terrain. At about 03:30 AM, the SAR team members and the Lockwood Valley deputy located the stranded motorists who were all in good health and were driven out of the area. This successful rescue operation was due to the efforts of the SAR team members and Lockwood Sheriff Deputy who utilized the specialized equipment, their training, and knowledge of the area to locate the motorists.
The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone that when they are recreating in the national forest and wildlands, it is imperative that it is done so safely and responsibly. Many of the hazards and risks associated with Off-Highway Vehicle recreation in these remote areas can be mitigated by proper planning and preparation. At a minimum, it is imperative to be familiar with the area you are recreating in, have a map, know the limitations of your vehicle and driving ability, have sufficient food and water, and ensure someone who is not with the group knows the details of your trip and when to report you as overdue.