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Summit County Sheriff's Office

Posted on: December 16, 2021

Sheriff's Office Winter Operations

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Sheriff FitzSimons discusses Winter Operation procedures at December's "A Fresh Ground Cup of Conversation."



Date:  December 16, 2021 

Contact: Christine.Duplan, (970) 423-8901

SUMMIT COUNTY, CO – Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons provided a behind the scenes look into the Sheriff’s Office Winter Operation procedures at Monday’s monthly conversation series, A Fresh Ground Cup of Conversation. Members of the Sheriff’s Office, Summit County Search and Rescue Group, and community were in attendance. 

The Sheriff discussed how Accident Alerts are implemented during times when Colorado State Patrol Troopers are unable to respond to large volumes of motor vehicle accidents due to severe weather conditions. The alerts are jurisdictional and geographical, so while one area may be on accident alert, others may not. Conceivably, when Colorado State Patrol initiates an Accident Alert status for Summit County, the Sheriff’s Office and collaborating law enforcement agencies will follow suit. When this happens, law enforcement personnel are not actively responding to accidents unless there is alcohol and drugs involved, or injury or death, and instead reports are taken on-line. The Colorado State Patrol investigates accidents on the interstate, state highways and county roads, while the Summit County Sheriff’s Office only investigates accidents that occur on private property. 

 During winter operations, safety closures may also occur, often closing a road temporarily due to severe weather conditions. Any public agency may initiate safety closures on county roads, state highways, and the interstate. Extended interstate closures often result in the Sheriff’s Office and the Red Cross providing shelters for stranded travelers, dependent on numerous factors including hotel vacancies. The Silverthorne Recreation Center has been utilized in the past for a smaller number of stranded travelers, while Summit Middle School has been used for a larger number of travelers in need of a safe place to stay until the safety closure is lifted. For those traveling with animals, the Sheriff’s Office Animal Control and Shelter Division often sets up a temporary shelter at either of the Red Cross shelters or the Summit County Animal Shelter in Frisco. Regardless of what agency implements a safety closure, the reason behind the closure is for concern of the First Responders and travelers, to ensure everyone is safe. To be notified of safety closures and other emergency notifications by phone, email and text, residents may sign up for SC Alert:

 Not uncommon to Summit County, avalanches occur every winter. It is the statutory responsibility of the Sheriff to provide search and rescue services within the county. The Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Team along with their partners with Summit County Search and Rescue Group, are specially trained for backcountry rescues. An improvement to backcountry rescues this year is the use of drones. In the past when an avalanche occurred, the Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Team, members of Ski Patrol, and Summit County Search and Rescue group were deployed and sent into the backcountry without having “eyes” on the scene before they arrived. Today, the Sheriff’s Office has several drones that are now utilized in backcountry rescue, including drones that have infrared capability, which aids in detecting avalanche victims. Now, rescue teams are able to access the situation before sending rescuers into the backcountry. The use of specialized drones has been a game changer in keeping rescuers safe when being deployed to a scene.

 The Summit County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Team also works with Summit County’s four ski areas: Copper, Breckenridge, A Basin, and Keystone, to ensure the safety of everyone on the mountain. The Sheriff’s Office works with Ski Patrol prior to every ski season, reviewing investigation procedures that involve accidents and deaths on the mountain, which can be very complex, depending on whether a situation is criminal or civil in nature. 

The next Fresh Ground Cup of Conversation with Sheriff FitzSimons will be held on Monday, January 17, from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. at the Summit County Community and Senior Center. January’s topic will cover Mental Health, with special guests Board of County Commissioner Tamara Pogue and members of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office SMART and STARR Teams.



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