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Missing Hiker Found Safe in Caribou Wilderness After Intense Search

The rugged Caribou Wilderness area is in the far southwestern corner of Lassen County, bordering Lassen National Park.

A missing hiker, who had been separated from his companions after an ankle injury deep in the Caribou Wilderness area, was found today after a night-long effort to locate him by the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office, Lassen County Search and Rescue team and the California Highway Patrol.

The missing man was reported to the Sheriff’s Department late Wednesday by his two companions who had walked out of the wilderness area to find cell service. They reported that at about 3:00p.m., 65-year old Dennis Stearns of Madera, California got separated from his two hiking companions after he injured his ankle and fell behind.

After an unsuccessful search for Stearns, the other two hikers left the immediate area to contact the Sheriffs Office for help.

Sheriff’s personnel conducted a preliminary search while summoning additional resources to assist. At approximately 10:30 pm Thursday evening members of the Lassen County Search and Rescue Team arrived on the ground in the area.

Search and Rescue volunteers spent the entire night searching foot trails in the Caribou Wilderness attempting to find Stearns. Because the search was in the wilderness area, motorized vehicle use was limited to the main roadways.

Early this morning, the Sheriff’s Office requested the assistance of the California Highway Patrol Helicopter to augment the ground search. CHP Helicopter H14 responded from Redding to provide air support for the operation.

At approximately 8:20a.m., Search and Rescue volunteers located Dennis Stearns on one of the hiking trails in the wilderness area. Personnel escorted Stearns back out to the incident command post where he was reunited with his hiking partners.

Undersheriff John Mineau, in a report filed this afternoon, thanked the Lassen County Search and Rescue Team for the effort they put into the search. They spent the entire night and morning hours walking in the wilderness area finally locating the man approximately 4 miles away from where he was last seen by his companions.

“Stearns safe return is directly attributed to the hard work and commitment brought to Lassen County by the Volunteers of the Search and Rescue Team,” said Mineau, “The Sheriff’s Office also thanks the California Highway Patrol for the assistance with a ground unit and aerial support from the H14 Helicopter.”

The Caribou Wilderness is a federally designated wilderness area created by the Wilderness Act of 1964 and is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Jeremy Couso
Jeremy Couso Publisher/Editor
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