SEARCH ENTERD 6TH DAY

October 31, 2002 11:00 pm

WALLOWA — The efforts of hundreds of hours of ground searches by foot, scent searches by dogs and air searches by U.S. Air Force helicopters are still without result in the search for a missing 39-year-old hunter.

Wallowa County Emergency Services Coordinator Matthew Marmor said that law enforcement officials and members of the Wallowa County Search and Rescue squad would meet at 10 a.m. today to review the now six-day old search.

"We've kind of downsized for efficiency," Marmor said, adding that after this morning's meeting he expected the search will go on with about six to eight SAR team members. They plan to expand the search area to cover about 24 square miles centering from the Washboard Ridge area.

Snow and continued cold with temperatures in the single digits and lower have made the six days of searching for Mischelle Hileman of Wallowa a grueling experience for searchers from Wallowa and Union counties.

The search area, Marmor said, has from 3 to 4 inches of snow on the ground and covering trees, to bare areas in the lower elevations.

Marmor said that while some footprints were found Sunday and Monday, believed to have been left by Hileman, nothing has been found since.

"The weather has been a major concern," Marmor said.

As the search goes on, though, "the urgency is not as great as it was early in the week," he admitted.

No plans have been made to end the search, and the county will continue to muster teams to continue the effort.

Soon after Hileman was reported missing, he said, a search dog was used and seemed to lead searchers down a road in the area and past distinct landmarks, including a corral. But the trail didn't result in finding Hileman, and that was before snow covered the area, making dog searches more difficult.

National Guard helicopter searchers ended their participation Thursday, Marmor added. But he extended his thanks to both the support of area residents and to Forest Service personnel who have joined in looking for Hileman, who suffers from both hypoglycemia and asthma.