On the Memorial

A Tribute to Larry Falce

Sonny LawrenceNorth Face, San JacintoMany of you may know of Larry’s long-term involvement with the San Bernardino Mountain Search and Rescue team as a sheriff coordinator. However, I doubt many of you know how tough and devoted he was as a volunteer on the team before becoming a deputy sheriff.

In the 1970s the Mountain team commonly performed very difficult trainings such as the rock climbing route on the East Face of Mount Whitney in a day. We also climbed various routes on the north side of Mount San Jacinto. This side of the mountain is unique in having the greatest vertical rise for horizontal travel of any mountain in the contiguous states. In one day, a climber begins at 1000 feet elevation and then ascends 9000 vertical feet. This is usually done in the late winter or early spring on a deep consolidated snow tongue.

One year the team decided to ascend the Daugherty route. This was originally opened by members of the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit. The climb was going well for the Mountain team. We passed the large chock stone at 6000 feet. We found our way into the ravine that is the Daugherty route. It was quite different than the other ravines the team had previously climbed on the north face. Instead of solid snow, gravel and rock; we were in a green, wet, mossy canyon. Eight or ten of us were climbing on the canyon left wall. I was in the middle. Larry was ahead of me. We were about 40 feet off the bottom of the canyon. Suddenly I see Larry flying by me. He looked like Superman, arms outstretched, head first flying down canyon. The look on his face is burned into my memory. Amazingly he rotated in mid-air such that his feet were first. He landed in 6 inches of water and slapped both arms on a big rock. This landing resulted in two broken wrists. But he was otherwise unharmed. Incredible! Of course, that ended our climb. There was no cell phone nor radio coverage in those days. So, we distributed his pack among the other members, splinted his wrists, fed and watered him and began the very slow descend. He was continually on belay. He had to be assisted past the simplest of maneuvers. Larry kept a great attitude and persevered down the mountain. We made it off in the wee hours of the night. X-rays divulged the two fractures. Each wrist was placed in a cast. Larry maintained a great attitude over the next 6 weeks as the team mercilessly teased him about maintaining his personal hygiene with a cast on each arm!

Very few volunteers or paid professionals have contributed the time and energy to SAR that Larry has. He will be greatly missed.


SAR Loses Another of its Own

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department is mourning the death of one of their own tonight. Moments ago, Deputy Lawrence “Larry” Falce succumbed to injuries he sustained from the violent attack on Sunday, December 31, 2017.

Larry is remembered as an honorable man, who began his career with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in 1981 as a deputy sheriff. Larry started his career working in corrections at the Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center and the Central Detention Center. The 36-year veteran worked patrol at Central Station for the past 32 years. Before joining our department, Larry served his country in the Army. He prided himself as being a lifelong public servant, who cared deeply about this profession.

Larry was loved by his peers and the community members he served. More importantly, he cared about so many people he called family. Larry is survived by his sister, Marjorie, and his girlfriend of many years, Deborah. He also leaves behind many extended loved ones.

The San Bernardino Police Department is conducting the criminal investigation. We will not be releasing or confirming the identity of the suspect at this time due to the active investigation. Anyone with information or questions related to the criminal investigation should contact the San Bernardino Police Department.


BMC Field Session(s) 2018

Those of you wishing to recertify for the Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) please be aware of the following dates. Note: the course for first-time students is closed. This announcement concerns recertification participants only. The primary date is January 13, 14. If that is canceled, the backup is February 3, 4. If that too is canceled, the last-ditch effort is March 10, 11. The typical recertification participant would only show up on Sunday and be tested. There would be no instruction what-so-ever. However, you are all welcome to attend the entire course. In that case, you could receive instruction on Saturday. Only individuals who have pre-registered with Sonny Lawrence may attend. Please email slawrence AT sbsar DOT org.


Farewell Luca

Luca Chiarabini was a member of the San Bernardino County Sheriff Cave & Technical Rescue Team.  He was 47 years old.  He was born in Italy.  He died on August 3rd, 2017 while trying to cross the Kings River after coming back from a canyoneering trip.  He was a software developer by career, but he will be most remembered for his amazing adventures, international travel, active lifestyle, and larger than life personality.  Luca was a great friend, and he always made any day more interesting. He had an amazing passion for exploration. His mind was a wealth of knowledge for both caves and canyons. He was always willing to help others. He was an active member of local caving grottos, theSierra Club, and Canyoneering Meetup Groups.  He was the largest contributor to   We will miss him dearly.



Desert Run 2017


July 2017 BSAR Class

Thanks to the folks who teach the Basic Search and Rescue Academy, the citizens of San Bernardino County, and the State of California have a new batch of SAR team members. Congratulations to the new crew members as they complete this first step in their training. 




Search and Rescue and CAC Join Forces to Clean Canyons

Please applaud Bill Loenhorst from the San Gorgonio Search and Rescue Team  and Hydrotek for once again stepping in to help with community cleanup projects. Two years ago, the Coalition of American Canyoneers (CAC) and the Cave and Technical Rescue Team created a plan to remove graffiti from waterfalls. We needed a relatively lightweight pressure washer to blast the graffiti off the rock. Bill, along with Hydrotek, stepped up and helped us build such a device. The CAC raised $1300 to pay for the wholesale cost of the machine.   Here is an article about its maiden voyage. Over the past two years, Bill has periodically thought of various ways to improve on the device. Not only has he spent time on the improvements, he was also able to cover the costs (over $500) through generous donations from various companies. The Coalition of American Canyoneers has now used the pressure washer to remove graffiti in California and Arizona canyons. The next graffiti cleanup is slated for the end of July in Southern California. 


California Region of the MRA Comes to San Bernardino Co

The first weekend in March, the California Region of the Mountain Rescue Association, descended upon the desert in San Bernardino County for their annual reaccredition. Many thanks to West Valley SAR for organizing this year's effort. It takes a lot of time and effort to host an event that calls for hundreds of SAR team members from more than 20 teams to arrive at a single location with all of their vehicles, and related equipment. Not to mention, setting up all of the scenarios, arranging for "missing hikers", "missing evidence", food, etc. A special thanks to nearby San Bernardino teams: Morongo Basin SARVictor Valley SAR and the Barstow Desert Rescue Squad for assisting with logistics and missing people. Until you have attended an MRA reaccreditation, it is difficult to understand the amount of work that it takes to host one of these events.


The Cave Team, West Valley SAR, and Wrightwood SAR successfully completed their reaccreditations after tracking and locating a missing hiker, and completing an evidence search. All the while, the command post and field teams are under the watchful eyes of MRA evaluators.


The Mountain Rescue Association is the only nationally recognized body that accredits search and rescue teams. To be a fully accredited member, the team must complete 3 accreditations: Search Management/Tracking, Winter Snow and Ice Operations, and Technical Rope Rescue. To obtain these accreditations, prospective teams are mentored by a fully-accredited team until they are ready to test. The test is then completed by the team, and evaluated by other MRA team members from across the state. To complete a single MRA accreditation often requires multiple years of planning and preparation. For example, the Cave and Technical Rescue Team completed their technical rope accreditaion in 1999 after nearly 2 years of preparation. A few years later, the team decided to complete accreditation in the remaining two disciplines, and successfully completed them in 2006 and 2008. San Bernardino County has two fully-accredited teams (West Valley SAR, and the Cave Team), and one associate member team (Wrightwood SAR) who has completed the Search/Tracking accreditation.

Wireless File Sharing Without Internet Access

TP-Link MR-3040 wireless router. Tootsie Pop for scale.The smartphone continues to play an increasingly important role in search and rescue with all manner of apps available to assist SAR members in the field. More than anything else, I use my phone for land navigation. In fact, unless the weather is really bad, I rarely pull my dedicated GPS out of my bag. With my phone I can easily enter waypoints, scroll around on a map, and even use a decent compass. Earlier, I've mentioned specific apps that are handy, as well as ways to keep your phone powered throughout multiple operational periods, but there still remains the problem of moving data on and off the phone outside of cellular networks, and with minimal client-side requirements. Sure, it is relatively easy to provide FTP access to some command post files, but that would require that end users understand how to FTP and have the proper software loaded. This is not easily accomplished when there is no cell coverage. Enter Piratebox.

Piratebox, and its fork LibraryBox, allow file sharing outside of any internet connection. LibraryBox is a fork of the Piratebox project, and has similar functionality. The differences primarily lie in the ability to upload. Piratebox has a provision for file uploading by others, while LibraryBox is a, primarily, one-way operation; there is no provision for upload. Since it would be nice to be able to easily collect things like GPS tracks from phones, I figured that the ability to upload files would be helpful. 

There are a handful of routers that are known to work with the Piratebox software, and I chose the TP-Link MR3040 because it comes with an integrated battery, and charges via a micro USB cable. To build your Piratebox, you flash the router with new firmware (OpenWRT) that has been modified to work with Piratebox, then install the Piratebox software. I won't replicate the directions here, but I followed them on the Piratebox site, and they worked fine.

I changed my Piratebox SSID to be "SAR-Files SBSAR"When you are finished, you are able to share any files on an attached thumb drive. People access the files by connecting to the wireless router (Connect just like you would any WiFi hotspot. This one won't have internet access, though.). Once they are connected, they will be redirected to a browser window that shows a place to view files, and a box to upload files.

Landing page with customized header image and textThe whole install and configuration took about 30 minutes. I did make a few modifications, however. I modified the landing page text to reflect the use in SAR, and I changed the header image. I used the instructions from this thread to accomplish this. I changed the default SSID to "SAR-Files SBSAR" and configured file uploads to go to a different directory using the instructions on this page. Since I didn't want just anybody accessing the files on the Piratebox, I also put a password on the WiFi access using these instructions.

My goal with this project is to make .GPX/.KML files for all search assignments available for download to searcher's phones. Also to be included are PDF maps and other documentation such as photos, track prints, etc. So, rather than getting an assignment, and spending time entering in waypoints and such, the searcher can quickly download his/her area to include on the mapping program on their phone (Backcountry Navigator, Locus, Gaia, etc). The command post would load up the flash drive with the files, plug it into the Piratebox, and set it on the check-in table for SAR members to access at their leisure. 

When the team returns, and has tracks and/or photos on their phones, they can connect to the Piratebox again, and upload their files. Later, the command post can pull the thumb drive and download all the files uploaded by the teams. Since everything is done with a web browser, no special software needs to be installed on the end-user's phone. This is key. Any solution that is designed to work outside of internet access, can't require a special app download since there will be no way to download the app without prior planning.

I have yet to try my Piratebox on an actual search, but it won't be long before the call arrives, and I will be able to give it a whirl. I will continue to update the links that I have found useful with this project at All of the links mentioned in this article are there. Drop me a line if you have any questions.



Cima Evidence Search