Search and Rescue teams across the province are uncertain of what the future holds after the BC government announced on Tuesday that there will be no SAR funding included in the new BC Budget.
There are 80 search and rescue teams across the province, for which the government had previously budgeted $5 million in funding to be disbursed between the teams. Current funding runs out on March 31.
President and Manager for Kimberley SAR Peter Reid says that the local team was shocked to see the lack of funding and that it will greatly affect how they operate.
“We are still hopeful that the government has another plan [in store] but if not, it greatly affects us,” said Reid.
He adds that Kimberley SAR recently receiving a gaming grant for the purchase of a jet boat, and the local detachment still has access to capital expenditures for similar purchases, however the provincial funding will affect their ability to not only train new members and continue to expand, but also generally run their base.
“That [provincial] funding really went towards training members and equipping them with clothing etc.,” said Reid. “Half of our equipment and clothing currently sits at my house. Our plan for the future was to use some of that funding to expand and find a new place to house our equipment.”
He says that there are safety standards in place that all SAR teams have to follow, which will also be affected by the lack of funds.
For example, an administrative professional was recently hired to help with dispatching and “professionalizing” local SAR efforts. That role will no longer exist without provincial funding, which means the local SAR team members will have to take on those responsibilities, greatly decreasing their resources.
Reid says the plan going forward is to reach out to both the City and the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) for more access to funds.
“We will have to see if we can be part of the budget line within the City,” Reid explained. “We are the swift water response team for any water-related emergencies within the City and we also help with wildfire evacuations in the City and the region, so we were able to stand on our own.
“We were previously part of the City’s community grant program however last year we stepped away because we had that government funding. We thought, there are so many other organizations within the City that are in need of those community grant funds. We’ll now have to go back and ask to be a part of that funding again.”
He says their current budget will basically keep the lights on.
“We’re shocked to see that Search and Rescue isn’t in the provincial budget line,” he said. “We’ll have to go to the City and the Regional District for funds to fuel our vehicles, and pay for lights and heat.”