The Southwest Area Incident Management Team was called to Texas last week to take part in the Columbia space shuttle recovery operation.
The team, under the leadership of Grand Canyon National Park’s Dan Oltrogge, assumed responsibility of the Hemphill Branch of the recovery. The Hemphill Branch is coordinating search and recovery efforts in the southeastern portion of the Columbia’s flight path during its Feb. 1 approach toward Kennedy Space Center. Seven astronauts were killed in re-entry.
Currently, there are 800 searchers divided up into 20-person crews systematically searching grids in Sabine and San Augustine counties west of Toledo Bend Reservoir in east Texas. Crews are battling difficult terrain consisting of dense thickets and swamps but have been able to cover about 2,000 acres per day.
Oltrogge’s team, which also includes the park’s Donna Nemeth as an information officer, will complete a 21-day assignment on the recovery effort, due out March 29.
Another 20-person crew on a shuttle search assignment includes 10 Kaibab National Forest employees — six from the North Kaibab and four from Williams.