After he took on and completed the Type 1 hike (DEH) immediately after finishing the Type 2 hike recently, it would appear Chris Coelho lives up to his name (Coelho means "rabbit" in Portuguese).
It is also an apropos moniker since he grew up on a Brentwood farm, raising animals and growing food. That background taught Chris to value the environment.
“As a kid, I learned early on how connected we are to this planet and how our actions and choices we make have consequences,” he says.
His respect for nature and the wilderness carried into his college studies at Chico and Davis, and continued on into his current career in environmental and public health.
It was also a natural segue into SAR.
But it wasn’t only love of nature that brought him into the spring 2010, aka “wet” Academy – he also had the common SAR desire to help others. And he stays motivated by memories of his grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s and was a recurrent walkaway.
“Fortunately he was found often a few hours later,” Chris says. “But experiencing, at a young age, the stress of someone missing sticks with you.”
Chris has attained Type 1 status and plans to help other team members get there. “When we go on multi-agency searches into counties whose entire SAR team may be just 10 people, it is crucial that people in Contra Costa County step up and help out,” he says. “We can do so much to help and we've got some of the greatest instructors to learn from. … It is not only important to our community, but it really is an asset to the state.”
Chris lives in Pleasant Hill with his wife, Cindy, whose support, he says, enables him to be involved with SAR. When he’s not busy with the team or searches, Chris climbs and works out at the Diablo Rock Gym, rides his bike, or enjoys the outdoors via camping or backpacking. He also enjoys traveling, specifically to Central and South America, and bills himself as a “connoisseur of yeast-fermented beverages.”
He offers a few pieces of advice for SAR members, culled from his experience. The first is simple: Buy gaiters.
But he also says he has learned it is best not to try and do everything, which could lead to burnout. “There are a lot of things that can be done in SAR and you don't need to rush it all.
“And last,” he adds, “one of the most valuable pieces of wisdom is to do whatever Kovar says.”