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Officials: Eaton Canyon Accidents Way Up in Last Year

Search and rescue officials from multiple agencies across the county spoke up Tuesday afternoon about an increase in Eaton Canyon accidents and what to do about it.

A group of search and rescue and parks officials from multiple agencies told a group of reporters Tuesday afternoon that rescues in Eaton Canyon have gone way up in the last year.

Officials from the County Parks and Recreation Department, the Sheriff's Department, the Pasadena and County fire departments, and the Forest Service all assembled on Tuesday to announce the release of a public service campaign intended to warn hikers about attempting to reach a second waterfall above the Eaton falls that requires scrambling over steep terrain with crumbling rock.

Increased Use, Increased Accidents

Bill Niccum, an assistant chief in the County Fire Department, said that there have been 60 rescues in the last 12 months, 35 of which involved injuries and two deaths.  He did not have information on how many there have been in previous years, but various search and rescue field personnel said at the press conference that they have noticed a serious increase.

According to a Forest Service official at the press conference, nearly 500,000 people used the Eaton Canyon last year.  Several officials posited that the area has seen increased usage because of closures of other areas from the 2009 Station Fire.

Rescues have been , and summer in particular has been a busy time.  In one week in August, there were two deaths in one week:

Speakers at the press conference also noted that the rescues are very technical and are putting search and rescue personnel at risk, as well as costing agencies money and manpower.

Bob Taylor of the Pasadena Fire Department said the rescues are making it hard for firefighters to focus on their other responsibilities.

"We now have to rely and other stations and other agencies," Taylor said.

Social Media Issues

Ross Guiney, of the County Department of Parks and Recreation, said that one major problem are websites that are posting information on how to get to the upper waterfalls and suggesting there is a trail that goes there.

"An increasing number of people are listening to inaccurate information from friends or even social media," Guiney said.

The issue of finding the information easily posted on Internet sites came up in the death of one hiker John Jutiyasantayanon in August - a friend of the hiker that information she found on some sites made the treacherous climb sound like hikers "are entering Disneyland" and don't highlight the real danger of the hike.

One to ask them to remove their review - they emailed her back and declined to do it.

Public Campaign

To try to combat the issues, the group has made a series of public service campaigns asking hikers not to climb in the area.  They distributed them to media Tuesday, including several local TV stations.

Park rangers are also spending time on the trail on weekends, talking to hikers about the dangers of climbing there, according to Niccum.

One local resident at the press conference asked about putting up ladders at the falls so people would have easy access to the upper falls.  Others asked about making a safe trail up.

Mike McIntyre, a local Forest Service supervisor, said that there are no plans to do that at this time, and said building a safe trail to the falls would be difficult, if not impossible.  

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