By David F. Rooney
Last winter’s avalanches clearly demonstrated weaknesses in Revelstoke’s Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, weaknesses that are being addressed by an infusion of money from the province and the Columbia Basin Trust.
“It’s embarrassing when the people you’re going to rescue have better equipment than the rescuers,” Mayor David Raven said at a cheque presentation ceremony on Thursday during which Lynda Lafleur, the Columbia Basin Trust’s Community Liaison, presented local SAR representatives Buck Corrigan and Grant Dowdy with a cheque for $25,000. The money matches $25,000 to the SAR team from the province.
Lafleur agreed with Raven’s assessment and noted that “all SAR rescue groups have difficulty raising money. So we help where we can.”
Corrigan said last winter’s avalanches at Turbo Hill on Boulder Mountain and in Eagle Pass clearly demonstrated that the local SAR team of about 35 active members needed new equipment — particularly the kind of communications gear than can make a real difference when lives are at stake.
During last year’s back-to-back avalanches search and rescue operations were hampered by the fact that the existing repeater on Mount Mackenzie was inadequate and that SAR members’ radios were obsolete.Rescuers also had trouble communicating with helicopter pilotss. Some of the equipment the local SAR team members used was still labelled “BC Civil Defence” even though there has not been a civil defence organization in this province for 30 years. The experience convinced local SAR experts that they needed new gear, Corrigan said.
The funds will, among other things, be used to purchase new radios and to help pay for a new, $15,000 repeater tower on Sale Mountain.
What makes this all terribly ironic is that the Revelstoke SAR is probably one of the busiest groups of its kind in the province.
“Last year we were called out 42 times and conducted at least six fatality recoveries,” Corrigan said. “We are probably the busiest SAR group outside the North Shore Rescue Team.”
Although the City of Revelstoke was quite happy to accept the $25,000 cheque from the CBT and pass it along to the Revelstoke Search and Rescue Team, Raven said maintaining a well-eqiuipped and funded SAR operation is not up to municipal governments.
“This is a provincial issue — not a City issue,” he said.
Corrigan said Revelstoke SAR is also purchasing new hands-free Bluetooth headsets for team members and other equipment.