BC SAR groups receive annual provincial funding but some say it’s not enough

BC SAR groups receive annual provincial funding but some say it's not enough
Alberni Valley Rescue Squad/Facebook
The Alberni Valley Rescue Squad responding to an injured hiker on Klitsa Mountain on Aug. 31, 2022.

The B.C. government announced funding for 78 search and rescue groups in the province, but some groups say the amount doesn’t quite cover all their expenses.

Training and regular certifications are among the expensive requirements of modern day search and rescue work but the list of things to buy and replace is seemingly endless.

“We have tens of thousands of dollars in rope rescue equipment and it all has an expiration date. Our swift water rescue equipment is the same story so our dry suits are $2,500 each and they expire, our PFD’s expire and then there are our training costs,” said Arrowsmith SAR Manager Nick Rivers.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg that doesn’t even include vehicles like trucks, boats and ATVs.

It’s why funding is always such a concern for search and rescue groups.

On Tuesday, the province announced annual funding of just under $6 million to be split between 78 SAR groups in B.C.

“Funding in the amount of $5,961,000 was received and, of that, $4,918,750 was issued directly to 78 GSAR groups in B.C. The remainder is used to fund the BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA), which represents ground search and rescue groups in B.C., in its daily operations, which include public safety education and critical incident stress management programs,” stated BCSARA.

The BC Search and Rescue Association says the current provincial grants cover about 40 per cent of a group’s operating costs annually but Nick Rivers says in Arrowsmith it’s closer to 20per cent.

Arrowsmith’s annual budget is $250,000, and with all of the provincial grants, reimbursements and a grant from the Regional District of Nanaimo it would still amount to a deficit of $35,000 that the group has to make up on its own.

“I remember once we were searching for someone down in the French Creek area and I had to pull a team of six people out of the field in order to go man the sand castles in Parksville as a part of our fundraising obligations so it’s tough when you have to pull people out of the field on a search in order to do fundraising just to keep the doors open,” said Rivers.

The Alberni Valley Rescue Squad tells CHEK News it has the same concerns, rising costs of everything it needs and does but a provincial grant that isn’t keeping up.

“If our membership was to take the time it put into fundraising and we were to apply that to training we would be so much further ahead,” added Rivers.

However, a statement from B.C.’s Ministry of Emergency Management indicates there will not be additional funding coming the way of search and rescue groups on top of today’s announcement.

“This long-term funding is intended to supplement other sources of revenue GSAR groups receive, such as those from local governments,” the statement says.

“This funding is in addition to incident-related funding the Province provides each year to cover operational search-and-rescue costs associated with rescues and training deployments. In 2021-2022, this amounted to $7.85 million.”

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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