They Got a Call to Rescue One Person; They Ended up Saving 11
It's one of those storms that will be remembered years from now. The amount of snow various parts of Wyoming saw was astronomical. Cities like blank and blank saw inches upon inches of snow and, in some cases, the weather actually resulted in somewhat dangerous conditions.
That's exactly what happened in Baggs Wyoming last week.
Baggs Fire and Rescue reported that a call for one rescue eventually led to the rescue of 11 different people.
"Yesterday around 5pm Baggs Fire was called to a search and rescue north of Baggs off Highway 789," BFR wrote on their Facebook page. "What started as a call for 1 person turned into bringing 11 people back to Baggs and getting one WYDOT snowplow unstuck."
It was a long night but, according to Baggs Fire and Rescue Chief Jared Wille, it was a worthwhile night as well.
"Obviously the whole state knew this storm was coming in," Wille told K2 Radio News. "There were a bunch of people still out trying to get work and stuff done but, all of a sudden, with the temperatures getting cold, equipment started failing and breaking down. People started losing heat and they couldn't get anywhere."
And that's when the calls started coming in.
"Our Search and Rescue call was originaly for one person up at roughly milepost 17 on Highway 789, the west side of the highway there," Wille said. "And as we were getting him, we got a call of a second person further north. And then we were getting that second person and someone from [an energy company] called and they had two crews close to that second person we picked up, and they asked if we could get them out."
"So," he continued, "We left Baggs with a call for one, and came back with 11 people."
Two of those people rescued were actually ones charged with plowing the snow.
"They were out snow plowing and one blade quit and the other one got stuck," Wille revealed. "And then the other two groups of people were out on a job site and just got snowed in and they couldn't get out. They had their vehicles to stay warm, and food and water for a short time longer, but they decided that since were were up there, they made the decision to get them out to avoid any future problems because no one knew when they'd be able to get out of there. Take the opportunity when you can."
So, that's what Wille and his team did.
The team consisted of six firefighters from Baggs Fire and Rescue, two Baggs EMS Personnel, members of the Carbon County Sheriff's Department, and more.
"One of the firefighters owns BT&R in Baggs and he was the key player," Wille said. "He had a side-by-side with tracks and heat. We had a bunch of snow machines with us, but cold temperatures and not knowing the state of the guys we were going to get, we were definitely glad he had a side-by-side with heat so that we could get them loaded up in the cab and start getting them warm right away."
The people that were rescued were extremely thankful. They weren't quite sure of what they were facing, according to Wille.
"The two blade operators were extremely happy," Wille said. "They'd been stuck out there going on about 20 hours. The two crews; it was kind of a shock to them. They had no idea we were coming. While we were loading them up and getting on our way back, they realized the amount of snow everywhere and they realized the situation that the state highway itself was in."
Wille said that they didn't quite understand the danger that they were in.
"They knew they were kind of snowed in but, in their minds, "A blade will come plow us out in the morning,'" he said. "Well, the blades weren't able to come plow them out; we had already picked those guys up."
If the rescuers are getting rescued, there's a problem. Luckily, this team worked together to rescue the rescuers who were rescuing the rescued. But once they picked up the stranded individuals, the next question became...'Where do we take them?'
That's where Lexine Davis came in.
Lexine and her husband Bob own The Cowboy Inn and they got a call at about 11:00 at night with a strange request.
"The Carbon County Sheriff's Deputy, Brian Lally, was with us and he got ahold of Lexine Davis with the Cowboy Inn and she came down and got the Cowboy opened up, and had coffee and water and food waiting and got hotel rooms for everyone," Wille said. "I think we got to town at about 2:00 AM."
That's how Davis remembers it, too.
"Well, the Sheriff's Department called about 11 o'clock and they said they had about nine people that were coming in," Davis remembered. " I live about four miles from Baggs and the motel was closed, so I got up and got dressed and went in and waited for them to show up."
Not only did she get out of bed in the middle of the night to open up the motel; she made sure that she had something warm for them to drink, as well as something to eat.
"I made ham sandwiches and chips and had hot drinks for them," Davis shared.
Davis said she did that because it's the Wyoming way; especially when the weather is acting the way it did.
"With this storm and with a lot of things in life, everyone needs some help once in a while," she said. "And it's a small community, so we're used to helping each other. This is just part of that."
Wille agreed. He said that he never really thinks about the privilege that he and his team have every single day. They have the opportunity to save lives, which is exactly what they did during that storm of '23.
"I've never really thought about it that way," he laughed. "Mostly, I just hope that if I'm ever in that position, that an army of people will come do the same for me one day."
And that's exactly what it was: an army. It was a group of people who got the call and answered it. And then they answered another call. And another. And another. It was the fire and rescue team. It was the sheriff's department. It was Bo Stocks, and BT&R, and Baggs EMS. It was a motel owner.
All of these people came together to not just rescue 11 people, but to give them a roof to sleep under and food in their stomachs. It's just one of the stories to come out of this storm and, according to Davis, it exemplifies everything that Wyoming represents.
"We're always willing to help each other," Davis said. "That's what happened on this night. And when they got here, the first thing they all wanted was a shot of whiskey. So that was sort of fun. They're going, like, 'Yeah, we're out of the snow and we're in someplace warm!' So they had a couple whiskeys and beers and they ate their sandwiches and they were pretty excited to be in Baggs."
For Wille, this situation was a good example of Wyoming and, even more specifically, it was a good example of what the first responders in Baggs do every single day.
"A big thank you for everyone that helped," he said. "Carbon County Sheriff's Department and Carbon County Road and Bridge, and all the people that showed up to help Search and Rescue. It just worked out nice. We had the right people and the right equipment to make it successful."