Search and Rescue operations across the province rejoiced last week as the long-awaited promise of funding stability finally arrived.
Last Tuesday, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced that his government will provide annual funding of $6 million to support ground search and rescue operations across the province, beginning in 2022-2023.
“B.C.’s ground search and rescue groups have been calling for long-term, sustainable funding, and we’ve worked with them to meet this need,” Farnworth said. “But funding is only one way to show our support. Search and rescue volunteers take a risk every time they go out to rescue someone, and that risk is heightened due to COVID 19. I’m calling on all British Columbians to be safe and to make sure your family, friends and neighbours are being safe, so we can reduce the risks for everyone.”
Kimberley Search and Rescue President Peter Reid says it’s amazing news.
“It’s an opportunity for stability. It helps us to plan,” he said.
There was a major funding announcement last year as the province provided $18.6 but it was not long term as is the latest announcement.
“We’ve done well with fundraising, but this allows us the opportunity to create a strategic plan and focus on training, Reid said.”
Kimberley Search and Rescue has come a long way since it began in 1999 as basically an adjunct to the Fire Department, Reid says.
“Gone are the days when we rolled out of a VW van, in a billow of smoke and said ‘dude, which way did he go?’
“We’ve added so many capabilities to the team. We have five trucks, sleds, a trailer, and they all cost money to maintain.
“I’m just ecstatic because as some point we are going to have to move out of city hall. Now we can focus fundraising on that and not training and equipment.”
Reid says search and rescue organizations across the province have been asking for funding stability for the past six or seven years.
“We were the only emergency group not funded. And SAR is relied upon by other emergency services.
“Money will always be a challenge but now we can plan.”
Reid says it is also a recognition that tourism is a huge part of B.C.’s economy, and not just tourism in Vancouver, but the backcountry.
Backcountry access is improving, as snowmobiles can go higher and further than ever, and more and more people want to access remote places.
Since January 2020, ground search and rescue volunteers have responded to more than 700 calls throughout the province.
“This announcement of sustainable funding and support for the 79 groups and their 2,500 unpaid professional members is truly a milestone for the ground search and rescue service in B.C.,” said Chris Kelly, president, on behalf of the BCSARA board.
British Columbians are asked to do their part:
Stay close to home on well-marked trails, while maintaining physical distancing.
Make sure to pack the right provisions and clothing appropriate for the weather.
When going into the outdoors, be prepared to take care of yourself and your family.
Follow the provincial health officer’s directions.