'Holding out hope': Search for missing Seattle deputy fire chief enters second week

Daily efforts include at least a half-dozen agencies plus help from K-9s, drones, mountain rescuers and ground teams that include fellow firefighters


Daisy Zavala
The Seattle Times

CLIFFDELL, Wash. — Search-and-rescue teams, including volunteers from Seattle, continue to look for a Seattle Fire Department deputy chief who vanished more than a week ago while hunting in Kittitas County.

About 100 volunteers assisted search-and-rescue crew members Wednesday in looking for Jay Schreckengost, who was last heard from on Nov. 2, as the search extends into its second week. Crews searched the hills above Cliffdell in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Kittitas County Sheriff's inspector Chris Whitsett said.

Schreckengost told his family he would be looking for elk, but he didn't return to his rented cabin that night, according to the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office. His pickup was found about three miles north of State Route 410 in the Cliffdell area, where the search is focused.

Searchers have spoken with several witnesses in the area who reported seeing a man who fits Schreckengost's description, Whitsett said.

"We're confident we're looking in the right area," he said.

Although officials were worried Tuesday that weather conditions would make it difficult to search the area, the snowfall was light, Whitett said. Crews hope weather conditions continue to improve.

"We have plans to continue searching all week long until we find the chief," Whitsett said. "We're still working with the same urgency as last week."

At least a half-dozen agencies on average continue to assist daily with search efforts, Whitsett said. They're looking into several leads they've received from the public and are using computer mapping and modeling to build up an effective search plan, he added.

Also assisting in the search are K-9 teams, drone teams, mountain rescue teams and ground teams, which are primarily made up by personnel from the Seattle Fire Department and nearby agencies, the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office shared on Facebook.

"We're coming at this from every angle possible," Whitsett said.

About 135 personnel from the Seattle Fire Department have assisted Kittitas County with the search, SFD spokesperson Kristin Tinsley said. Many have stayed for multiple days to help, and some have gone back and forth as time allows, she added.

Since the very beginning, about 45 different agencies, including SFD communication partners, personnel from other fire departments and law-enforcement agencies have provided resources to assist the search, Tinsley said.

Schreckengost is a beloved member of SFD and a lifelong friend to many of his co-workers, she said.

"This is still a rescue effort, and we are still holding out hope," she said. "We want to find him safe."

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(c)2021 The Seattle Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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