Chilliwack SAR ready for rescues on the river

They get about 20 rescue calls every year for the fast-moving Fraser, out of an average year where they see about 80 callouts in total.

Chilliwack Search and Rescue members Dan McAuliffe and Doug Fraser chat near the team's brand new jet boat for swift water rescues.

Chilliwack Search and Rescue members Dan McAuliffe and Doug Fraser chat near the team's brand new jet boat for swift water rescues.

Chilliwack Search and Rescue just took possession of a brand-new speed boat that was custom designed for their swift-water rescue calls.

The high-calibre river boat will be mainly deployed on the mighty Fraser River, explained Doug Fraser, search manager for Chilliwack SAR.

They get about 20 calls every year on the fast-moving Fraser, out of an average year where they see about 80 callouts in total.

Last year was a record year with 86 calls.

The ample roominess of the new boat will be crucial.

“The interior design is built for patient care,” Fraser noted. “We’ve got more room to manoeuvre, and lots of space to treat people while in transport.”

In the old days, they could only squeeze in two highly trained SAR volunteers.

“There’d be no room for anyone else, and if we had a stretcher, it had to be laid across. It was a definite challenge, but we made do.

“With the new boat, we can carry a crew of four, and still have room for patients and a stretcher, and other personnel if need be.”

The jet boat with its custom lighting, navigation and communication equipment ended up with a pricetag of about $92,000.

“We paid for it with about five or six years of savings.”

The not-for-profit SAR organization did not get a gaming grant for this project.

“We didn’t end up having a single major donor, but instead we did a lot of saving for it.”

It’s the third motor-powered boat for the super-busy Chilliwack SAR team and replaces their aging Zodiac that was in active use since the 1980s, when it was donated to them by the Chilliwack Co-op.

“We have now donated it to another search and rescue team,” he said about the older Zodiac that saw upgrades and a new engine in recent years.

The new jet boat won’t see any action in the Chilliwack River, but might see a rescue call to the section of the river near the Vedder Canal. They could also deploy it on the water out at Chilliwack Lake or in Cultus Lake, but they’d have to use caution on Harrison Lake, since it’s not meant to travel.

“We expect to get 20 plus years out of this boat,” he said.

The jet boat easily fits seven and was custom designed by a builder out of Agassiz.

“He did a tremendous job of listening to our needs, and list of suggestions. We are very happy with what he managed to produce for us,” said Fraser.