Hiking in the local mountains? Why a 'PLS' is critical to your safety

A photo of the Fish Fire on Monday, June 20, 2016.
A photo of the Fish Fire on Monday, June 20, 2016.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

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After discovering the remains of two hikers in the Angeles National Forest last week, authorities are reminding local hikers to share their whereabouts with loved ones before they set off on a hike, especially during the dangerous fire season.

The names of the two men whose remains were discovered have not yet been released, but family members have told KPCC they believe them to be Los Angeles residents Jonathan Pardo and Carlos Perez, who were cousins that ventured into the forest to hike and fish last month. The men were dropped off in the mountains just hours before the Reservoir and Fish fires broke out. Authorities believe they fell into the path of the fast-moving blaze and were overcome by flames.

Pardo's brother told KPCC he was disappointed it took more than two weeks for the men to be found, but Lt. Andy Berg of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said search efforts were stunted because the family could not immediately provide a key piece of information, known as a "PLS."  

The acronym stands for "place last seen" and refers to the location where the men were dropped off when they set off on their hike. Without that information, ground and air crews were unable to concentrate their search in a particular area of the 300,000-acre forest. 

Berg said the family later connected with the person who drove the hikers to the mountains, and they provided the sheriff's department with a PLS last week. Then the men's remains were found within days, Berg said. (The Pardo family disagrees with that account, and says they provided a PLS on June 24. KPCC continues to investigate the conflicting accounts)

Berg said it is critical for hikers to share their whereabouts with loved ones before they set off on a hike, especially during the fire season. While experienced hikers are less likely to get lost, anyone is vulnerable to getting caught in the path of a fresh wildfire. When a loved one goes to authorities for help, they will be asked for the PLS.

“It's a critical bit of information, and without it we’re left to speculate about the search area," he said. "We generally would have to spread the resources over a larger area, and it would be a challenge to cover the huge forest area that is our jurisdiction.”

Berg said that, especially during fire season, it’s important to leave your travel plans with someone who isn’t on the trip with you — information such as your route, travel dates, direction of travel, and physical description can help authorities locate you in emergency situations.

A hike planning sheet can be found here.