Search and Rescue gets funding boost

Last week the provincial government announced $10 million in one-time funding, “to help bolster training, administrative support and equipment renewals for the 80 Search and Rescue (SAR) groups operating around the province,” and our local team is already considering how they will use whatever portion of that funding they end up getting.

They don’t expect to know for possibly a few months how the money will be split up amongst the SAR organizations around the province, but the head of Campbell River SAR (CRSAR), Tim Fairbank, says there are 2,500 total members province-wide, and our local team has 50, so splitting it based on size would equate to about $200,000 for CRSAR.

Even if they use some other formula for distributing the money, such as “how busy each group is,” Fairbank says, “we could still do well, because we are in the top 15 or 20 per cent provincially by that measure.”

“Anyway, we are not going to count our chickens before they hatch,” he says, although he also admits he was excited when he heard the announcement and already has ideas for how to spend their unexpected windfall.

“We have two projects in mind so far,” Fairbank says. “One is a regional mountain rescue training program, which would take 12 to 20 SAR members from both the North Island and Powell River on a week-long training trip with qualified mountain guides.”

The other, he says, is the replacement of Response 2, the truck they use to haul rescue gear to incident scenes.

CRSAR bought Response 2, “five or six years ago,” Fairbank says, with the money from an ICBC settlement.

It had been a rental van, and had some deficiencies, but the price was right and it fit their needs at the time. Since its purchase, however, their needs have changed, as they have incorporated CDFL (helicopter long-line rescue) operations to their arsenal of services, and the weight of the equipment needed to perform that role is more than the current truck can handle at highway speed. Replacing the truck has been in their plans for some time.

“We have already put $20,000 aside for this project, half of which was from one private donor in our community. We were braced for a challenging, three-year fundraising campaign to raise the additional $80,000 or so necessary for this ambitious project, but with the recently announced provincial funding, our lives may be made much easier.”

The truck are looking to purchase to replace Response 2 is a one-ton crew cab with a custom-made equipment box, designed specifically for the role it will play, which Fairbank expects will last the organization over 20 years.

The province’s $10-million funding announcement last week, according to the government release, is intended to “help meet the 80 ground search and rescue team’s immediate needs while EMBC (Emergency Management BC) continues to work together with BC Search and Rescue Association on a long-term solution.”

That “long-term solution,” according to president of BC Search and Rescue Association Chris Kelly, is an “alternate support model,” currently being developed in collaboration with the province.

While that model is in development, however, he says, “this money will relieve some of the funding pressures and provide for increased training and other tools for those who tirelessly serve as volunteers.”