North Shore Rescue is on track for another record year of calls, which means another incoming appeal to look at professionalizing the service.
Team leader Mike Danks says crews have taken 90 calls so far in 2016 – which is the typical average for an entire year. Last year was the busiest they’ve ever had, responding to a total of 139 calls.
He says with trails growing busier every year, turning the team from volunteers to paid professionals is worth looking into.
The province recently injected $10 million into BC Search and Rescue, but Danks says it was a one-time payment, not a long-term solution.
Danks says people exploring B.C. trails often underestimate the risks that come along with it.
“The thing with our local mountains is you can be quite remote very quickly, and I think a lot of people don’t anticipate that and our trail network is pretty vast as well.”
That’s exactly what happened Saturday night when two female hikers found themselves 3-4 kilometers further north than they had planned. Danks says they were lost and unprepared, which led to a rescue team of 12 people staying out all night to retrieve them.
So what should change?
“It’s not a really simply, straight forward thing to implement and I think as a team we’re going to be having our general meeting in September and it’ll be a topic of discussion to see how this could potentially work for North Shore Rescue. I think another important thing to consider is all the other teams in the province are volunteer teams, we all have the same struggles with sustainable funding and I really hope it wouldn’t just be something for North Shore Rescue, it’d be a much broader funding model that would cover all the teams.”
Jon McComb asks, if the provincial government is teaming up with the tourism industry to draw more people to B.C.’s great outdoors, shouldn’t looking after much needed rescue services become more of a priority?
Danks says, definitely.
“The amount the call volume is increasing in the last couple years, its not sustainable for volunteers to continue at this rate.”