Powell County Search and Rescue opens new aid station, Forest Ranger honored

POWELL COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – He is known for having a passion for the Red River Gorge, never stopping to take a drink of water while on a rescue scene, and for his easy-going personality. His mark on the Powell County community is legendary.

J. L. Bowen, a former member of Powell County Search and Rescue, remembers one of his first encounters with United States Forest Ranger Don Fig.

“I was up rappelling and scaring people once and he came along and said, you know, ‘I could write you a citation for that or you could join our rescue since you’re good on the ropes,” said Bowen.

Fig, who served as a United States Forest Ranger in the Red River Gorge for over 50 years, died last year in April. He is remembered as not only an advocate for the safe enjoyment of the outdoors, but a mentor and friend to the community as well.

“He was my mentor and helped me many, many times throughout my whole life. When I’d run across problems he would help me. And I miss him and I think of him every day,” said Bowen.

Tuesday, Powell County Search and Rescue celebrated the opening of the Don Fig Aid Station at Middle Fork Campground in the Red River Gorge. He’s being honored for his dedication to the Gorge and the community, although those closest to him describe him as humble, and say he would not want the recognition to go only to him.

“This is him. This is part of him. It’s like, it should be. It’s like a body, you know, you have to have an arm, and he was our heart, it’s Don Fig. You can’t go without a heart, and Don was our heart,” said Search and Rescue Public Information Officer Lisa Johnson.

The aid station is equipped to asses injuries and treat minor ones, but it’s also meant to be a learning center. It’s all to make the Red River Gorge a safer place for campers and hikers alike.

“We have people who can walk here, people that can camp here, kids can come up and talk to us about plant species and snakes–we’re here also for a learning center. And we’re just here to be a part of the community and be a helping hand,” said Johnson.

Becky Clements, from Florida, is camping with her husband for the first time in the Gorge. She says she feels much safer knowing an aid station is just steps away from her vehicle.

“I felt kind of good about it because I know there’s a lot of cliffs and that arch–that bridge–that people can climb on. And I was like ‘that’s kind of cool’ because if people get in trouble there’s that rescue,” said Clements.

Powell County Search and Rescue hopes to staff the aid station with volunteers from Powell County Search and Rescue and rescue teams from the surrounding area every weekend.

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