New annual funding for BC Search and Rescue teams

WatchThe Province of B.C. has announced annual funding of $6 million for the province's 79 ground search and rescue organizations. This is on top of operational funding.

There are 79 search and rescue organizations in British Columbia, including 11 on Vancouver Island.

And while the government pays for costs like fuel and helicopters when the teams are on a task, the teams have to raise money for other annual costs like rent, vehicles and equipment.

Beginning in 2022, there will be some help with those costs.

“We’ve been working with the BC Search and Rescue Association to come up with a sustainable funding model. And in Budget 2020 we were able to follow up on that work by providing an ongoing annual $6 million contribution starting in 2022/2023,” said BC Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth on Tuesday.

“That will be in addition to operational funding the province already provides each year.”

That could mean roughly $100,000 a year for Vancouver Island teams like Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue.

“This is the announcement I think that SAR teams have been waiting for for many, many years,” said Comox Valley SAR Manager Paul Berry. “It means that SAR teams across the province are recognized and legitimized and that funding will now be a line item in the budget and so we will not be needing to go cap in hand to the government every few years looking for funding.”

The announcement comes at a time when call volumes across the province are on the way up.

“I believe calls are up about 50 per cent over the same time last year,” added Berry.

“We are seeing many more people who are out into the backcountry engaging in activities and when you have more people out there there are more things that are likely to happen.”

“Men and women on our ground search and rescue teams give their time and expertise freely risking themselves in some of the most dangerous situations that nature can offer to make sure that someone in trouble stays alive,” said Farnworth.

The allotment of funds will likely depend on team size and call volume.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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