Dedicated to helping others, Lucas Tress volunteers 500 hours for Marin Search and Rescue

Camille Ray

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“The most rewarding part about the team is the fact that you can help others while doing something that you love to do. It’s unlike any other team where youth members are not allowed to go on searches. It’s the real deal. You can go out when someone needs you and you have the skills to help that person,” Redwood junior Lucas Tress said about his experience as a Marin County Search and Rescue (SAR) Cadet. 

Tress holds impressive Cadet title on Marin Search and Rescue after being on the team for only a year

SAR is an emergency rescue team comprised of both minors and adults, dedicated to assisting those in distress or immediate danger. Being on the only certified mountain rescue team in the country that allows youth recruits, Tress has the unique opportunity to learn emergency response techniques alongside trained professionals that can be applied to real-life situations. 

Having dedicated over 500 hours to the team over the span of 15 searches, Tress admits his biggest challenge is balancing school, family, sports and his duties as a Cadet. Outside of school, Tress is apart of both the Redwood and Tidal Wave swim teams and practices four days a week, year-round. With this additional time-consuming extracurricular, finding sufficient time to finish homework and socialize is extremely difficult. 

“SAR is a big commitment as it takes up a lot of my valuable time. It seems to come at the most inconvenient moments, forcing me to miss school, work, family and friends,” Tress said.

Throughout the year, Unit Chief Michael St. John has worked closely with Tress and understands how difficult it is for him and other youth members to balance their schedules. 

“Search and Rescue is so demanding [of time]. It is basically like playing a collegiate sport,” St. John said.

In addition to an intense schedule, Tress also takes on a tremendous amount of physical and mental pressure during training and live searches. Rescues are typically off-the-grid and in the mountains with grueling terrains. If the outcome of the search is unsuccessful or the victim is in bad condition, it can be challenging to cope. 

“It usually doesn’t bother me as much as it can bother other people, but just trying to keep your mind on the search is a really good way to deal with it. Focusing on what you’re doing and not getting sidetracked on what might have just happened is really important,” Tress said.

Photo courtesy of Kalyn Dawes
Putting his skills to the test, Tress repels down an 80 foot cliff

Since coping with certain rescues can be more complicated, members undergo extensive background checks and screening in order to confirm their mental preparedness. Not to mention candidates are also required to complete 65 hours of training before being allowed in-field. About once a month, members are expected to attend training to improve physical fitness, emergency response techniques and navigation skills.

Three year team and canine leader Kevin Lundquist explains the incredible responsibility these adolescents have and the importance of taking SAR seriously in order to maximize the opportunity for success.  

“When we allow a youth onto our team we expect them to be trained to the same level as the adults are. They have to do the same fitness, they have to have the same training. They have to have the same skills and abilities as an adult,” Lundquist said. 

Tress’ ability to work effectively alongside experienced adults under the face of immense pressure is exactly what SAR looks for in any member. Over the past year, the team’s development and success reassures Lundquist of the work that they do as an emergency rescue operation and admires those that participate. 

“You’re bringing closure to families. We have the amazing opportunity to find people who were missing and bring them home. It’s a great thing that Lucas and all of these other kids do. They dedicate their whole lives to it,” Lunquist said. 

In the hopes of continuing his career in emergency care beyond highschool, Tress plans on joining a SAR team wherever he ends up.

“Most places have a search and rescue team as long as they’re in the mountains or near a densely populated area. They’ll have some sort of team so I’ll try to join [a SAR team] wherever I go… [SAR] is a great way to help the community and to give back while doing the things you love. You feel you’re important and needed,” Tress said.