SEARCH AND RESCUE
INTO THE WILD
Search and Rescue visit City Hall for presentation
Doug Fraser (nearest) and CSAR members were at City Hall to make a presentation to council Tuesday.
STAFF —VOICE PHOTOS
is home to some of the province's most beautiful natural features but one
step in the wrong direction could mean trouble or even be deadly.
Chilliwack Search and Rescue (CSAR) people are all volunteers. Superstars ready to drop everything at a moment's notice grab their gear and connect with the team who have their radios, ropes, foot webbing, pitons, bolts, carabiners, sleeping bags, rain gear and a lot more specialized gear.
There's a myriad of scenarios when the heroic efforts CSAR teams are needed. They wriggle into a wet suit and wade into frigid fast-moving water in the dark, nail-biting treks through treacherous and isolated mountain areas. If they find someone who is injured, and if taking them out down a bumpy road would do more harm then good, they can bring them to safety with a long ropes hooked to helicopters (long-lining).
People who get rim-rocked when climbing where they can't go up or back down. They'll assist the stricken climber by making an initial rescue plan, gather equipment and call on the skills of technical climbers who knot their ropes and lower them down hundreds of feet.
Many times over the years CSAR has been called out to car accidents where the vehicle left the road and down an embankment and the victims need to be extracted or locating people trapped in avalanches.
Morris Duncan a the helm of the jet boat on
the Fraser River.
At Chilliwack council meeting Tuesday CSAR
members including Dave Casey, President, Jeremy Plesman, VP, Doug Fraser,
former President and Tracey Heron, Search Manager gave a presentation
regarding what CSAR does and how they do it.
"We began to look at how we can recruit certify and retain a fully functional dedicated group of SAR volunteers," said Heron.
CSAR have 44 full members, 5 lifetime members and 4 members with specific skill sets. All CSSAR members work on a volunteer basis consist of trades people, professionals, retirees and entrepreneurs. The group is a Registered Charity and Not-For-Profit Society with elected administers and 10 Search Managers.
Doug Fraser holds on as the CSAR's jet boat accelerates on the Fraser River.
Last year CSAR had 58 callouts and 32 this far in 2019 making them the third busiest SAR team across Canada.
"As Chilliwack grows in tourism and with our expansive outdoor area is promoted, the probability is we're going to get more calls and is something we're trying to work into our strategic plan," Plesman told council.
Each year CSAR builds on equipment acquisitions including 4 swift water for the Chilliwack River which is a class 4 river in terms of rough water.
SAR will often use long-lining with a helicopter to lift injured people out.
"CSAR is ne of the more elite teams in the
province," said Plesman. "We cover everything from basic search and rescue
to first aid with medics that volunteer beyond their regular jobs and we're
just moving back into mountain rescue which is our goal."
Fraser talked about education and training of CSAR members.
One of the things that remains consistent with CSAR over the years has been the dedication and the expertise of their personnel.
A SAR Bell helicopter. For the most part CSAR use Valley Helicopters. Below, Kent Search and Rescue use specially trained dogs to assist.
"I joined in 1997 and our team size has just about doubled since that time so that's certainly been a significant change and the diversity of the equipment that we use has also increased in that time," said Fraser. "All of that has been acquired to improve our response time and improve patient outcomes so the citizens of Chilliwack that recreate here in the Fraser Valley are extremely fortunate that we have these resources at our disposal."
One of the educational aspects that CSAR has is a program called "SAR Prevention " that team with a province-wide program called National Adventure that was developed in BC that travel around to schools and sit-downs with cub scouts as well as adults in the community.
"We've already exceeded the number of contacts that we hoped to make in 2019 so it's been a terrific year for SAR education and prevention," explained Fraser.
Fraser Valley SAR hovercraft.
Funding is a challenge but made possible by groups like the City, FVRD, EMBAS, gaming grants, the Chilliwack Foundation and from local community groups.
"It's always been a complicated mix and remains so," Fraser told council and went on to thank those involved with funding CSAR. "In the mid-2000s we would still get to a point where we'd get to a point that we thought our bank account was going to run dry in the summer months and often would but the province opened up the opportunity to for us to apply for gaming grants and that was huge and one that we take advantage of almost every year."
Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness speaks with SAR members.
The provincial government as also stepped up to the plate with its assistance over the last 4 years by providing one-time funding grants and each of the 80 teams in the province benefits from that. Due to the team's size and expertise and how busy they are have received the maximum amount of funding the team can get from provincial funds.
"We're pleased that the government 're-upped' for the next 3 years on that one-time funding and our long-term goal and hope is that at some point it'll become a regular line item n the provincial budget and we won't have to keep making presentations to the province for secure funding," he said.
SAR divisions across BC take part in education and recruitment fairs.
"Costs for expenses during an operation have
always been covered by the province and we're also fortunate to receive
donations from private citizens, from service groups, from corporations and
the Chilliwack Foundation recently have recently given us some funds that
have allowed us to help with purchase of life-saving equipment that didn't
come cheap, it was almost $18,000 for that but it was vital and improve
patient outcomes," continued Fraser.
CSAR's facility is located at 5th Ave and Williams St and although it has expanded within its confines they are still "bursting at the seams" with all the equipment and are in search of a new location.
Mayor Ken Popove applauded the time and dedication for what CSAR does
"It's overwhelming to hear the number of hours that you folks put in that's great," he said. Just curious if there is one piece of advice that you could give people when they're going into the wilderness."
Vernon BC SAR use drones however CSAR doesn't at the moment but Fraser said they're looking at that option.
Coun. Bud Mercer said its unconscionable
members are paying for their own meals but CSAR members can actually write
things off in their taxes like food and personal gear.
The biggest thing people wanting to go out into the woods hiking or camping should be prepared to: tell people where they're going and set up a pre-plan; bring a flashlight.
There's no cell phone reception in the Chilliwack Valley so once people do manage to know where they're going they have no contact do it can make it very difficult for us to find people," said Plesman. "Sometimes if they're up Elk Mountain we can actually talk to them and find out what's going on."