The Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue team was awarded the Montecito Rotary Club’s Vocational Service and Public Safety Award on May 15 in recognition of their success in serving the Santa Barbara community.

SBCSAR is a nonprofit, all-volunteer branch of Santa Barbara’s Sheriff’s Dept. and all volunteers are certified and trained in emergency search and rescue measures for lost or injured people in the mountainous or wilderness areas in the county. Members operate with specialized equipment and are trained in emergency measures including high-angle rock, down aircraft and swift-water rescues.

SBCSAR team member and Incident Commander Jim Frank, who represented the team at the Tuesday award ceremony, said the Sheriff’s Department nominates candidates before the Rotary reviews the applicants and makes the final call.

“We are non-paid county volunteers who go out and provide services on behalf of the Sheriff’s Department that gives us the freedom and ability to build an exceptional search and rescue team,” Frank said. “We are very pleased with the work and relationship we have with the department and it is a creative opportunity to work together and serve the community of Santa Barbara.”

The Montecito Rotary Club — a civic organization of local business and professional leaders aiming to engage in humanitarian endeavors and encourage ethical standards in all professions — sponsors awards like these to acknowledge public service entities for exceptional work.

According to SBCSAR team member Bryon Bass, an apprentice Incident Commander, the recognition highlights the team’s often overlooked dedication.

“We were a little bit surprised when we got the award because it indicates that someone is paying attention,” Bass said. “It’s rewarding to know that people see what we are doing, the training we go through and the activities we participate in for the county.”

The team was founded in 1962 as two separate organizations focusing on northern and southern areas of the county before the groups merged with the induction of the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team in 2001. SBCSAR receives an average of 80-100 calls per year and, as a member of the Mountain Rescue Association, is proficient in highly technical rock, snow and ice rescue missions.

The team played a major role in evacuation efforts during the Tea Fire in 2008, aiding the Sheriff’s Department in rescuing Montecito and Santa Barbara residents from their burning homes.

According to SBCSAR Public Information Officer and Incident Commander Nelson Trichler, the award was not the team’s objective but still provides the volunteers with encouragement and motivation.

“We are very honored. It’s nice to be recognized for the work,” Trichler said. “We don’t necessarily need the recognition, but it’s still gratifying that the Sheriff’s Department, Montecito Rotary Club and citizens of the community recognize the volunteer efforts and actions that the team does.”