Great Barrington Fire Department rescues hiker on Monument Mountain

Due to his location on the mountain, he had to be carried across boulders and lowered down steep embankments using rope systems.

Great Barrington — The Great Barrington Fire Department rescued a 71-year-old man yesterday suffering from severe dehydration at Monument Mountain Reservation and could not make his way back down the mountain, Chief Charles Burger said.

On Wednesday, July 12, shortly before noon, the Great Barrington department, along with Southern Berkshire Ambulance, responded to Monument Mountain Reservation for a report of an ill elderly man at the summit. Upon arrival, first responders learned that the elderly man, who was hiking with his son, had collapsed at the top of the Squaw Peak Trail, Burger said.

Great Barrington firefighters, using their Utility Task Vehicle (UTV), and the department’s rope rescue team ascended the mountain to reach the man. The Egremont Fire Department and the Western Massachusetts Technical Rescue Team also responded to provide additional rope rescue technicians, and the Sheffield Fire Department responded with additional UTVs. The Monterey Fire Department stood by to cover additional calls in Great Barrington during the incident.

Crews reached the hiker within 45 minutes. The man was treated by medics and stabilized. Due to his location on the mountain, he had to be carried across boulders and lowered down steep embankments using rope systems before reaching an area of the trail accessible to UTVs, which were used to bring him down the rest of the way.

Firefighters reached the bottom of the mountain by 2:30 p.m. The man was transported via ambulance to an area hospital in stable condition. All rescue crews cleared the scene by 3 p.m.

“This incident was a good interagency operation between fire departments, the tech team and Southern Berkshire medics who provided exceptional care,” Burger said. “It’s always a good day when we have a successful outcome.”

Since the Great Barrington Fire Department identified mountain rescue as one of the primary ways it can serve the community, firefighters have spent thousands of man hours training in rope rescue and finished 250 hours of refresher training on Monday. Firefighters also raised funds to purchase the UTV for the department, Burger said

To prevent injury and illness while on Monument Mountain Reservation, Burger recommends that residents follow several important safety tips:

  • Dress appropriately. Footwear should be comfortable but have ankle support, particularly when hiking steep and uneven terrain.
  • Hydrate, particularly in hot, humid weather. Since it takes several hours for your body to absorb water you need to hydrate prior to exertion and continue to hydrate while hiking.
  • Pick an appropriate trail for your experience level and physical fitness. That includes both length and difficulty.