Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) play an important role in the safety of Cheyenne River residents– they answer the call and perform search and rescue (SAR) missions, as well as conduct evacuation missions.
According to CRST GFP Director Dennis Rousseau, the department is often called upon when floods occur and during times of extreme winter conditions, because they have search and rescue equipment, but some of their equipment was not appropriate for certain treacherous conditions.
“We are one of the first ones called to action because [we] have the equipment,” said Rousseau.
Most recently, during this past winter and spring’s major storms and flooding, the department took part in rescue missions in Bridger and Promise communities, evacuating families from inundated homes and roadways.
Not having the proper equipment to meet the weather conditions proved to be challenging, said a department employee, who shared that employees had to traverse a flooded and muddy road en route to evacuating a family near Promise, when their equipment got stuck.
This delay stalled rescue measures, completely shifting the focus of employees from evacuation operations to digging their side-by-side out of the mud.
Another instance occurred in Bridger, when Cheyenne River reached flood stage and overflowed, inundating a home. The department evacuated the family using a boat that was not suited for the swift and strong current, said the employee.
To alleviate having to overcome such obstacles in the future, the department purchased two pieces of equipment — an all-terrain vehicle called a Sherp and a flat-bottom boat equipped with a raft.
According to Sherptv.com, the Sherp is an impressive all-terrain amphibious vehicle that “can easily overcome boulders, fallen trees, and other obstacles up to 70 cm high. It floats perfectly, can easily pass marshes and deep snow and is able to move out of the water onto the ice.”
During the unveiling and a live demonstration of the vehicle at the CRST GFP compound, employees saw first-hand how to operate the vehicle on land and on water. Heavy and constant rain turned the land near the compound into a deep, muddy and sludgy swamp — great conditions to test drive the equipment in, said the Sherp representative Mark Foote.
Foote spoke about the operations and maintenance, load capacity, and equipment specifications of the Sherp. Employees were then invited to sit in the Sherp during the test drive, which proved that the vehicle could easily traversed muddy roads, enter into a body of water, and not only float, but drive on the water with ease.
While floating on the water, the tailgate was lowered, opening the back of the vehicle and exposing the murky water just inches below. Foote explained that rescuers could easily reach a distressed person in the water and pull them safely into the vehicle with the tailgate lowered. He also explained that the vehicle operates on snow, ice, and slushy conditions as well, with top speeds reaching 24 miles per hour on land, and 3.7 miles per hour on water.
Employees asked questions as Foote continued his demonstration for several hours.
The Sherp will soon be complemented with the new boat, all in preparation for the inevitable — the protection, rescue, and safety of Cheyenne River residences, said Rousseau.
For more information about Sherp vehicles, visit www.sherptv.com.