Feature Story                                                                                                  Thursday, March 5, 2015

 

Ready to Rescue

Chilliwack SAR take command of the river with new jet boat  

Staff/Voice Photos

 

Long-time CSAR volunteers Pete Heemskerk (L) and Morris Duncan are happy with their new rescue craft. Below, the jet boat tears up the river on Saturday.

 

f you’re ever injured and lost in the woods, or stranded on a Fraser River gravel bar and need to be rescued, you want Chilliwack Search and Rescue (CSAR) volunteers Morris Duncan, Doug Fraser, Dan McAuliffe and Pete Heemskerk to do the saving. Four big, strong strapping dudes, with broad smiles and 79 years experience preserving lives between them.

 

On Saturday, CSAR unveiled their sparkling new $92,000 jet boat at their base on Fifth Ave. before taking it for a spin on the river.

 

They call her Jet-4. For power, she’s got a 350 cu in Chevy Kodiak marine engine that can cruise at 70 km/h bouncing over gravel bars and logs in an amazing 4 inches of water. She’s rigged with the latest communication, navigation and safety technology all beautifully fit into her 20 foot aluminum frame. She has 360° spot and flood lights and a super hard plastic skid plate from bow to stern.

 

Doug Fraser, Chilliwack Search Manager, has seen a lot over his 18 years of volunteer service and doesn't see any reason why he can't go another 18.

 

“It's a great organization to be a part of," says Fraser. "Any time you have a successful rescue, when you see that missing hiker or that injured fisherman, whoever, get back together with friends and family, there's no feeling like it.”

 

Fraser says they don't see much follow-up from the people they locate or rescue, but likes it when they do, and every once in a while someone will even donate a couple hundred dollars.

 

“When people make a donation, it gets used for maintaining equipment or purchasing new equipment,” says Fraser.

 

Advanced Life Support (ALS) Adam Laurie and Tony Fryer are amongst the 40 CSAR volunteers.
 

"We also get a lot of support from another ALS paramedic, Terry Grange. He teaches a lot of our Level 1 First Aid members," adds Fraser.

 

Dan McAuliffe has over 30 years of Search and Rescue experience.

 

Jet 4 is a beautiful display of craftsmanship.

 

“The boat is a special design. It's a tunnel hull design so we can go into certain places where other people get stuck,” says Pete Heemskerk.

 

He squats down and points to the hard black plastic sheath on the boat's bottom.

 

“We can actually slide overtop of gravel banks and over rocks and still be under power,” he says.

 

As of Saturday, Jet 4 had only been in the water 5-6 hours — just enough time to let the guys get accustomed to their new state-of-the-art watercraft.

 

Having the new boat meant that CSAR’s 16-foot Zodiac with a 50 HP motor and trailer was redundant, so they ended up donating it to Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue.

 

“They're a smaller team and a little harder for them to get funding and so they were really appreciated of the boat. They'll get a lot of use out of it yet,” Heemskerk says.

 

Steve Jennings, Swiftwater Rescue Team Coordinator and Vice-President of Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue in Smithers told The Voice in an e-mail Tuesday that they appreciate and are very grateful for CSAR’s donation saying it has been a “real boost” to their river rescue capability.

 

“We have had it out last fall for practice on a local lake with our water team and have numerous rivers around our local communities that we respond to calls for search and rescue,” he said. “The inflatable boat is ideal for river rescues and so we will be changing the motor to a larger jet outboard motor for river rescue once we raise some additional funds.”

 

Chilliwack Search Manager Doug Fraser enjoys an afternoon on the river in the new boat.

 

You can’t just buy a boat like Jet-4 off the rack. CSAR needed things in it that average fishing boats don’t have.

 

First, they needed to find a boat builder. That task alone took a year-and-a-half of late nights researching. Eventually they found High Caliber Adventures in Agassiz was their best bet.

 

“We wanted to try to support our local community seeing as how that's where we do all our work and we try to get funding from the local community and we wanted to keep the money here if we could. It was also really beneficial with them being so close, we could work with them throughout the entire process to get it built the way we wanted it, and the way it suited our needs rather than a cookie-cutter kind of boat off the rack,” says Duncan.

 

From that point, and over the next 6 months, they were able to work closely with High Caliber’s owner Jamie Reynolds. That’s longer than what it normally takes for the company to build a boat.

 

“We wanted to kind of have it our way," he said. "We weren't worried about the speed of the build, but what we wanted was that the end product was useful.”

 

“It is as good as we could possibly make it. We looked at the different types of crafts. We even looked at airboats. We looked at hovercraft. We looked at everything possible out there when we were thinking about getting this done. What was going to be the best bang for the buck. Like what's going to be of the most use to us. It all came back to a jet boat with some different characteristics so that it'll work, more operational, that kind of thing.”

 

“He was really good to us. Jamie was fantastic throughout the whole process, and was readily available for us to talk to and bounce ideas off. There were some ideas that we gave him that he never thought of before and there are lots of ideas that he gave us that we'd never thought of, so it was a real good process,” explains Duncan.

 

“Pat Lee from Voltage just off of Yale Rd. he gave us all the lighting, took care of the lighting, ordered it all and gave it to us at cost. The boat builder mounted it all. These are the local people that support us and I just think it's awesome,” said Heemskerk.

 

Connect on Twitter @ChilliwackSAR on Facebook here and visit their website at www.chilliwacksar.org for information on volunteering.

 

See more photos and the interview below.

 

 

© Copyright (c) 2009-2015 The Valley Voice

 

 

Interview with Doug Fraser, Morris Duncan and Pete Heemskerk


Doug Fraser has been volunteering for CSAR for 18 years is very good at what he does..


It's a thankless job isn't it?
Fraser: We're 100 per cent volunteer, nobody gets paid. We're here because we choose to be here. We want to be here. We want to make a difference.

You had no big government grant?
Fraser: No. This boat was a lot of saving within our team for the past five or six years. We didn’t have a single large donor to help pay for this. Emergency Management BC, a division of the Ministry of Justice reimburses us.


This wasn’t something they would normally help fund?
Fraser: Yes, we’ve used gaming grants to purchase other equipment that we have, but we didn't go that route for this project.

In 2013, there was a SARSCENE conference in Chilliwack, can we expect another one soon?
Fraser: There's an annual conference in Canada for Search and Rescue and it rotates from province-to-province, that year it was held in BC and Chilliwack was fortunate to be chosen the city to host the conference. It may be several years before it comes back to BC. CSAR volunteers have day jobs so its expensive and difficult for them to get away to SAR week-long conferences in other provinces.


What do you look for in Volunteers?

Fraser: We've got two paramedics on the team. One is advanced life support. We've got extensive first aid capabilities with our group. The minimum requirement is what's called a "Transportation Endorsement" and that's where we learn proper patient packaging to secure somebody onto a spine board, into a stretcher and ready for transport


Where do you train, at the JIBC?
Fraser: We do it right at our hall. Terry will come in and run the course out of our base.


Do you guys have a defibrillator?
Fraser: We do. We have an automated external defibrillator (AED) that we carry with us. We haven't had to use ours yet, thank goodness. But certainly we work with paramedics when they have their AED's out. Everybody's been trained on how to use that as well. The technology really does make a difference when CPR has been initiated and when you have an AED in there, it improves survival rate for patients dramatically.
 

Morris Duncan has been volunteering for 14 years and knows the river like the back of his hand.


How much did this boat cost?
Duncan: Outfitted the way it is, with communications and everything I think it was $92,000.
 

How big is it?
Duncan: Twenty feet.
 

What kind of power does it have on it?
Duncan: We went with a standard 350 cu in Kodiak V-8 engine in it with a jet drive.


Is it made in Canada?
Duncan: It was made actually by a local company in Agassiz called High Calibre Adventures. We wanted to try to support our local community seeing as how that's where we do all our work and we try to get funding from the local community and we wanted to keep the money here if we could. It was also really beneficial with them being so close, we could work with them throughout the entire process to get it built the way we wanted it, and the way it suited our needs rather than a cookie-cutter kind of boat off the rack.

How long did it take to make this boat?

Duncan: About 6 months, and that's longer than a boat that he normally builds would have taken but we wanted to kind of have it our way," he said with a hearty chuckle. "We weren't worried about the speed of the build, but what we wanted was that the end product was useful.

 

Pete Heemskerk has been volunteering his time and energy for 14 years, is very adept at handling the boat.


We had a16-foot rigid hull inflatable and it was kind of not very well suited for what we needed and it wasn't night capable.


The boat was actually donated to Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue. They were without a watercraft and we had one that didn't really suit us, so it was donated to their team free, so it was our way of helping them out.

What's that middle light?
Duncan: That's what they call a light bar. It's got flood and spotlights on it and it's all LED now so it's low power drain and you get lots of brightness.


A 20T. That's the model of the boat. 20 foot and the "T" signifies the tunnel hull and the "ultra mag" signifies the classification of it from High Calibre Marine.


He was really good to us. Jamie was fantastic throughout the whole process and always readily available for us to talk to and bounce ideas off. There were some ideas that we gave him that he never thought of before and there's lots of ideas that he gave us that we'd never thought of, so it was a real good process.

 

Do you store it here in the yard?
Duncan: Yes. We keep it inside our bay all fuelled up and ready to go in a moment's notice. We can come down here and it's all outfitted. We can also run it at night and in any weather too.


So you don't have anyone sitting here waiting for a call then?
Duncan: No. We're activated by the local agencies and it's a pager type system where it goes out to the team and whoever's available and can make it comes down here.
 

How fast can you deploy, say if you get a call on Harrison Lake?
Duncan: We've got a launching area down at Island 22. From the time we get paged out, we can probably be on the water within 20 minutes.


 

The boat's power consists of a 350 cu in Chevy Kodiak marine engine.

 

Heemskerk: Depending on how many people you get and whether they're close by. The response time to the hall, from leaving your house, or leaving your work, getting here, hooking up the truck and go. So from this point (at the hall), we could go Code 3 with a siren, so then we're at Island 22 pretty quick.


Is that what it is when someone is in trouble on the water?
Heemskerk: Not necessarily. It's called a Code 3 if it's a person in the water, a possible drowning. But if they're stuck on an island, we won't go Code 3 when they just need to be rescued and taken off the island.


You guys are ready at a moment's notice whenever the call comes in day or night?
Duncan: 24/7

So you're ready to go out in the bush or when the police call you for a urban search?
Duncan: Yes, you never know when the page goes off you don't know if it's a water rescue out on the lake or an urban search for an Alzheimer's patient, or an overdue hiker or someone injured. We cover it all.


I can't imagine what it's like to throw your clothes on and rush out the door at 3 am.
Heemskerk: Sometimes you arrive here pretty groggy and you keep going. During the day, everybody's got their work. This is a volunteer organization so everybody does their job and some people leave their job, their employer allows them to go. Some people can't, or they work out of town so the response time would be too long.


The skid plate must be very helpful?
Heemskerk: The boat is a special design. It's a tunnel hull design so we can go into certain places where other people get stuck. The water gets sucked up and shot out through the jets. We can actually slide overtop of gravel banks. We can actually hit rocks and still be under power.


Q. How deep is the draft?
Heemskerk: At full speed probably about 4 inches.


Q. What's the top speed on this?
Heemskerk: Probably a little over 70 km/h.

 

Passing under the Rosedale-Agassiz bridge.


That's pretty fast for a boat
Heemskerk: Yes, well you want to get there and make sure you can get the job done in time.


So you have room for lots of people in there and a stretcher?
Heemskerk: That's one of the reasons we had it built the way we did, we wanted to be able to work right off the back of the boat. Lots of grab holds and that type of thing for people in and around the water

That's a pretty big transom you have there.
Heemskerk: Swim grid. You can work off of here too. The nice thing about a jet drive is because there's no propeller, you can have people in the water and you don't have to worry about any personal injury. It's just water. But you can have it running and people getting in and out of the boat and not have to worry.


Do you guys dive?
Heemskerk: We don't have a dive team. We work in the water. Diving is done by the RCMP. We have swift water rescue people trained.

About how many calls a year do you guys go out on?
Heemskerk: Duncan: Last year was our highest number and we had 85 calls in total. It varies from year to year, some years you get more water-related calls, some years you won't. But a lot of it because we're such an area covered in rivers and lakes, say if the fishing is really good, a lot of people are out recreating on the river and so we'll have more calls just because there's more people out there doing that sport.


Whereas the next year if the river is closed, terrible weather, and the people are there, well we don't have as much going on. You never really know or can plan ahead for what the year's going to produce, but there's always something.

So where did the $90,000 come from?
Heemskerk: We started this 5 years ago. Through local donations from service clubs, Rotary etc. We try to apply for grants and we do get those a lot of times for training. For instance, if we don't claim our kilometers it goes back into the team. So the team generates some money. We put it in a separate account to the point where we can afford new equipment.

 

Pete Heemskerk (L) and Dan McAuliffe enjoyed the ride on the Fraser and Harrison rivers Satruday.


You paid cash for this boat, hey?
Heemskerk: We wrote a cheque for it. As a volunteer team, you cannot go to the bank and borrow money. You have to save up the money prior.


That's quite a task to save up $90,000
Heemskerk: It is. That's why something like this takes five years. We have monthly meetings to do our planning; what will we need in two years, five years from now.


Do you have a name for this boat like Lucky Lady or something?
Duncan: We picked numbers and this is what we call Jet-4. You never know, it may be named after the first person we rescue.


We just recently had it all operable and there's a little bit of training that has to go into the new people. All our operators that are used to running the other boats and watercraft are brought up to speed and then it outfitted with all the other gear, so we're ready to go now and take it operational, so that's kind of why we thought to let the public know that it's out there.

You guys must be proud of this?
Heemskerk: Yes, it's been a lot of work. It was a bout a 1½ years where we did the research and found the boat that we want to get that's suitable for where we need to go as a team. It's an Agassiz builder, that specifically designs this type of (tunnel) hull for these purposes.
 

Duncan: Like any of our craft and trucks and so on, there are certain people who are trained for them and within that group there may be seven people that are the main operators. So, when the pager goes off and Pete shows up and he's the most accomplished operator. Generally, you go with the best person for the job no matter what it is. It may not be the first person that shows up, but it will be the best person suited for that task.


I hope its a good summer for you guys and that there aren't too many calls
Duncan: Well that's the thing, you want to use your expertise, but usually something's gone wrong when you do. So it's that double-edged sword. It's like anybody that works in emergency services whether it's paramedics or police. You want to use your skill but you also don't want to.


Dan McAuliffe checks the prime to see that water is flowing through the jets before the boat leaves.

 

Heemskerk: You've got to have a lot ot enthusiasm in order to get up at 3 o'clock in the morning and do this and be there as a volunteer. Like Morris was saying, if something goes wrong and you show up and if we get a lot of calls it's not a good thing necessarily.


Pete, how long have you been a SAR member?
Heemskerk: 15 years. 15 awesome years.


How about you, Morris?
Duncan: I've been 14 years. Dan's (McAuliffe) has been here over 30.


How many of you are there?
Duncan: There's a little over 40 of us in total number. But one of the nice things about the Chilliwack group is that there's a large group of long-term members. Some of the surrounding teams they have turnover people quite often.


There's a team in Kent-Harrison area and a team in Mission, and there's a team in Hope and one in Abbotsford. They don't have quite a big a stable group as we do, so we're really fortunate that way. The expertise that Dan or Pete has from just those years of service and knowledge level is so beneficial when a call comes in, people have been there and done that. So if someone is lost on the river somewhere, you probably know where to look for them because you've looked there before for people. People seem to have a habit of getting lost in the same places.


Heemstruck: Or the same places catch people because we've got a section in the river that is full of gravel banks and shallow areas but you can't see that from the top, you have to know it. So that's the area where we find stranded boaters. So it's a geographical situation.


Duncan: The new people that go through that area may not have that knowledge that you've got to watch, or keep to the left or whatever. Next thing you know they're stranded. Well, we go to that area all the time, we train through there so we keep familiar with that type of terrain in the areas where people run into trouble.

What did you guys use before?
Heemskerk: We have another jet boat, an older style, it's probably 15 years old. That's a small one, a 19-footer. It's narrower, so it doesn't have the same floatation capacity so we can run through 4 inches of water with the new boat and that one probably runs through 8 inches of water. That might be the difference in getting where you need to go.


This is like a Cadillac in comparison?
Heemskerk: It's not a luxury boat, but it's a very practical one.


Duncan: It is as good as we could possibly make it. We even looked at the different types of crafts. We even looked at airboats. We looked at hovercraft. We looked at everything possible out there when we were thinking about getting this done. What was going to be the best bang for the buck. Like what's going to be of the most use to us. It all came back to a jet boat with some different characteristics so that it'll work, more operational, that kind of thing.
Like the tunnel hull, if you notice on the bottom of the hull is covered in in what looks like a hard plastic.

 

It's what they call UHMW. The idea is that it makes it very slick when it gets wet. So if you go over gravel bars, logs, that kind of stuff you can slide over them and not get stuck on them, and it will also protect the hull.


We can jump over certain gravel bars if we need to and even with the othe boat, we jumped over logs to get to places and different kinds of things. The boat will allow you to do that.

The Chilliwack Search and Rescue team at Island 22.

 

It looks replaceable
Morris: It is repairable if you need to. And we've got lots of custom lighting on the boat now so that we can see at night. We've got 360 degrees of light on it, even off the back.

You don't actually police out there, do you?
Morris: No. We're rescue only.

Heemskerk: Pat Lee from Voltage just off of Yale Rd. he gave us all the lighting, took care of the lighting, ordered it all and gave it to us at cost. The boat builder mounted it all. These are the local people that support us and I just think it's awesome. Jamie Reynolds High Calibre Marine is the boat builder


You guys must be eager to get this boat on the water?
Duncan: Yes, it's been a long process.
There's not a lot of companies out there that have the capabilities. We even looked at boat builders from Alberta. Luckily it was something local.
 

Heemskerk: We still have to look at the quality of the things that we purchased, whether they suit our needs obviously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for looking.