Feature Story                                                              Sunday, February 11, 2017


Answering the Call

Volunteer firefighters and SAR get thanks from the government in the form of a tax break

BC government caucus/Voice file photos


Search and Rescue from around the Fraser Valley display their capabilities at SARScene in Oct. 2013 Above, crews are airlifted in by chopper. Below, Pete Heemskerk, Chilliwack SAR, demos their new ride out on the river in March 2015.


he Province intends to introduce a new tax credit for B.C.’s volunteer firefighters and search and rescue volunteers as part of Balanced Budget 2017, Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto and Finance Minister Michael de Jong announced today.

Subject to legislative approval, thousands of volunteers throughout the province may soon be eligible for a $3,000 non-refundable tax credit, providing a benefit up to $151.80 each year.

“B.C.’s volunteer firefighters and search and rescue members play a critical role in the safety of British Columbians,” said Yamamoto. “These local heroes leave the comfort of home to rush out into often dangerous and unpredictable conditions, in every type of environment, to provide a beacon of hope to both those lost and to the families waiting at home. The tax credit announced today is a small token of thanks for their selfless service, and for the incredible contributions these men and women provide to their communities.

Hang on to your hats! Pete Heemskerk, Chilliwack SAR, is at the helm with his pedal to the metal in March 2015. With the new jet boat they're mere minutes to the Agassiz bridge.

The new tax credit will be available for volunteers who provide at least 200 hours of volunteer service to a volunteer fire department, an eligible search and rescue organization or a combination of both. The credit will be available for the 2017 tax year.

Doug Fraser, Chilliwack search manager. If you're lost, or in trouble, these are the  guys who'll be coming for you. Below, a K9 looks ready to go.

Combined with a similar federal credit, volunteer firefighters and search and rescue volunteers may be eligible for up to $601.80 in non-refundable credits each year.

“We are fortunate in B.C. to have thousands of skilled and dedicated volunteer firefighters and search and rescue volunteers who risk their lives and contribute their time to keep us safe,” said de Jong. “I think I speak on behalf of all British Columbians when I say, we appreciate the work these individuals do, and this tax credit is just one of the small ways we can express our gratitude.”

On March 2, 2017, the Province of B.C. along with the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA), Provincial Emergency Program Air (PEP AIR), and Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) will unveil a memorial for search and rescue volunteers in British Columbia who have lost their lives in the line of duty, and to honour all those that serve. This monument will sit adjacent to the newly unveiled B.C. Emergency Services Garden of Honour, and existing memorials dedicated to British Columbia’s fallen Law Enforcement officers, Fire Fighters, and Paramedics.

Kent-Harrison SAR respond to a hang glider caught in the trees above Bridal Falls in April, 2016.

“Many small communities in B.C. rely heavily on volunteer firefighters and search and rescue groups to provide protection and assistance in times of need,” President of the Volunteer Firefighters Association of BC Bob Stevens said. “This proposed tax credit will greatly benefit those many volunteers who give so much time and effort, often with no remuneration. This recognition by the Province is very much appreciated."

Cultus Lake volunteer firefighters in October 2016.

“Search and rescue volunteers contribute an incredible amount of time away from their families and workplaces to save the lives of lost or injured people. They also contribute financially, buying personal protection equipment, clothing and ready packs to operate safely in variable terrain and weather,” President of the BC Search and Rescue Association Chris Kelly said. “This tax credit will relieve some of the financial burden carried by these volunteers, and shows the commitment the Province of B.C. has to the volunteer search and rescue program and its members.”

Quick Facts:

• According to the BC Search and Rescue Association, there are 2,500 volunteers in 80 search and rescue groups in B.C.

• These volunteers respond to more than 1,400 incidents each year. In 95% of cases, subjects are found or rescued within the first 24 hours.

• According to the Volunteer Firefighters Association of BC, there are 177 active volunteer fire departments with about 4,500 volunteer firefighters.

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