It was during the Chilliwack Search and Rescue update at city hall Tuesday that it came to light that dedicated SAR members often donate their mileage and meal reimbursement money back to the team.
“That always troubles me,” said city councillor Bud Mercer, talking about the SAR struggle to obtain adequate funding for gear.
“Volunteers that we rely on to do a job that far less than one per cent of us are capable of doing, and you have to donate your lunch money and gas money to buy fricking equipment?”
Funding for B.C. SAR teams was part of a UBCM motion at the annual conference again last September calling for stable, sufficient funding sources, but apparently someone “wasn’t listening,” he said.
“It’s unconscionable that we would ask you to do that,” Mercer said about volunteers paying for rescue equipment.
Other members of council chimed in, adding their support and appreciation for the exceptional work provided by the third busiest SAR team in the province, and Canada.
Chilliwack SAR team has 44 full members to cover the 1,200 square kilometres of territory, said SAR member Frank Van Nynatten, who joined the team in 1996.
Chilliwack SAR experienced a “rather large increase” in call volume, up to 121 callouts for 2021, which was a jump from the 2020 total of 111 calls.
Van Nynatten and past president Jeremy Plesman were in council chambers March 1 with an update for council.
“It’s a pretty dramatic jump,” Plesman said, adding their call volume basically tripled in the past 20 years.
“As everyone is aware Chilliwack Tourism has done a fantastic job of promoting our great outdoors, which brings people from all over the world to climb Mt. Slesse, or to recreate in Chilliwack Lake or Cultus Lake.”
That has made the SAR team even busier.
The constant challenge is adequate funding, especially in light of the need for a larger space to accommodate growth.
The tendency for members to contribute their reimbursement money from meals and mileage is part of the “culture” of Chilliwack SAR, and has been that way for at least 20 years, Plesman said.
Also the old SAR base building on Fifth Avenue is “tired,” council heard, and it’s become obvious it will be something that needs to be addressed since they are “bursting at the seams.”
Mayor Ken Popove said city staff was working closely with SAR officials on the question of obtaining larger space for their base facility.
Coun. Chris Kloot offered his appreciation, adding the rescue work by SAR doesn’t go unnoticed, acting as a “lifesaver at a moment of despair.”
Watch the SAR presentation online.
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