LAKESIDE (CNS) - Three hikers were safe Monday after being hoisted off of El Cajon Mountain in Lakeside in a challenging nighttime rescue that involved infrared technology, authorities said.

The hiking party called 911 about 8:30 p.m. Sunday to report that they were lost without warm clothes, water or food, San Diego County sheriff's Deputy Scott Bligh said.

A sheriff's helicopter crew using night vision goggles located them on a southeast facing slope of the mountain, just west of El Capitan Reservoir Dam, he said, adding that the terrain was steep and rocky.

"The rescue proved to be a challenge for the crew as the hikers were in a shallow canyon with no suitable landing areas nearby," Bligh said. "Also, heavy ash from a recent fire ... was stirred up by the rotor wash and further reduced visibility."

With help from a San Diego fire-rescue copter crew and a laser designator attached to infrared equipment, the hikers - all in their mid-20s - were eventually hoisted to safety one-by-one and flown to El Monte Park, where they were evaluated by paramedics and released, Bligh said.