Thursday, March 5, 2015
Ready to Rescue
Chilliwack SAR take command of the river
with new jet boat
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.
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
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.
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
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
squats down and points to the hard black plastic sheath on the
“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
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
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
“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
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
has been volunteering for CSAR for 18 years is very good at what he
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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?
you're ready to go out in the bush or when the police call you for a
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
I hope its a good summer for you guys and that there aren't too
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Heemskerk: We still have to look
at the quality of the things that we purchased, whether they suit
our needs obviously.
Thanks for looking.