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Two California Departments Argue over Who Rescued Hikers

ALTADENA, Calif. -- There's a tale associated with the Eaton Canyon rescue of two injured hikers.

And, like most stories, the details depend upon who is writing the history.

In a Sheriff's Department press released issued late Monday night, deputies reported that the L.A. County Fire Department put two injured hikers on a helicopter and flew them to safety after the pair were saved by the sheriff's Altadena Search and Rescue team.

On Tuesday morning, the Pasadena Fire Department gave a differing version of events. Officials said city firefighters carried the injured hikers from the falls, and Pasadena paramedics drove them to Huntington Memorial Hospital.

When media outlets began reporting the sheriff's version of events, it set off a flurry of emails within the Pasadena Fire Department seeking to correct things.

"This is not right," Pasadena Fire Capt. Robert Taylor wrote to spokeswoman Lisa Derderian. "(County Fire) would not fly (patient) out. Too much risk for gain in their words.

This is not the first time (Pasadena) got no recognition for (a) difficult rescue," Taylor concluded.

Sheriff's Spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department won't get into a "he said, she said" battle with a smaller agency.

"We send out press releases when our people do outstanding jobs," Whitmore said. "Here is what's important: The people got saved."

So what did happen?

The incident began with a 5:45 p.m. 911 call Monday that alerted authorities to two injured hikers near Eaton Canyon Falls. The spot is near where several other accidents and fatalities have occurred.

The hikers, both women, fell from the edge of the waterfall and slammed onto the rocks 20 feet below, Derderian said.

Because the incident occurred after dark, L.A. County Fire officials declined to use its helicopter to effect a rescue, Pasadena officials said.

Instead, rescue personnel from the Pasadena Fire Department, L.A. County Fire and Altadena Search and Rescue - an all-volunteer force - hiked into Eaton Canyon.

Upon their arrival at the scene, Pasadena firefighters determined that one woman was in critical condition, while the second suffered only minor injuries, Derderian said.

Eaton Canyon is partially within Pasadena city limits and parts of the well-traveled trail are in unincorporated Los Angeles County, placing it under purview of both county and city emergency personnel. Rescue efforts are joint operations, said Derderian, and credit is due to all of those who save the lives of distressed hikers in the canyon.

Ranking Pasadena officials say they are tired of mix-ups resulting from Sheriff's Department press releases. Officials said those releases often mislead the public as to who conducts forest rescues.

"In the past, they have taken credit and made it look like they single-handedly done stuff," Derderian said. "I usually just let it go."

In an email to Derderian, Taylor also implied that competition for limited government funding may lie at the root of the snafu.

"I know all agencies are fighting to keep their programs but the LACOSD public information is borderline egregious considering the amount of misinformation contained," Taylor wrote.



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