Search and rescue outgrows its Chilliwack headquarters

A trio of CSAR reps came before council this week to update their status, and share their successes and challenges

Chilliwack Search and Rescue has 43 members on the team and 13 members-in-training

Chilliwack Search and Rescue has 43 members on the team and 13 members-in-training

Chilliwack Search and Rescue has grown from its humble beginnings with local mountaineers in 1957 to become the second busiest team in B.C.

They put in a whopping 14000 hours of volunteer time last year, and demand for service keeps increasing.

A trio of CSAR reps came before council this week to update their status, and share where they’re headed, in terms of resources and challenges.

They have 43 members on the team and 13 members-in-training, said Doug Fraser. That number was narrowed down from more than 75 applicants, and it’s the largest group of trainees they’ve had in a while, after a recruitment drive.

“Every single one of us is a volunteer, and we volunteer because we want to make a difference for our community.”

CSAR is kept busy in the back country as one of the few teams with all the capabilities, from ground searches, rope rescues, to swift water rafting, as well as long-line helicopter missions, they do it all. They deploy rescue trucks, an instant command post vehicle, as well as smaller watercraft, jetboats and a UTV.

Equipment that allows them to dangle from a chopper, a class D fixed line kit, can cost $60,000.

The local team is called out to respond to as many as 80 tasks per year.

Although the delegation was not submitting a formal request for capital funding, it was made clear they’ve outgrown the city-owned facility they use on Fifth Avenue as a headquarters.

President Jeremy Plesman says demand on the highly trained team continues to climb, with more callouts every year.

“The demand on volunteer time averages between 200 and 1000 hours,” he says.

The current facility was a gift from the city that they are “so grateful” for, Plesman said.

“As demand increases, our facility gets tighter and tighter,” he said.

Some members of council heard the subtle ask embedded in their presentation.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said it might be time to initiate a discussion with the province for sustainable funding help.

Coun. Chuck Stam thanked the team for their time and expertise.

“I heard your request loud and clear in terms of the building,” he said adding it could be considered in the 10-year capital plan, as well as seeking new funding partners.

“It would be ideal if you could find a building outside the flood plain,” Stam said, adding they may have to move south one day, and was a topic that staff could look into.

Stam noted after the meeting that CSAR very rarely requests anything of council. City reps cover vehicle maintenance and insurance costs, and other costs.

“So when they do ask, we want to be paying attention,” he said.

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