South Columbia Search and Rescue volunteers provide emergency services to the RCMP, BC Ambulance Service, and BC Coroners Service. The team’s base in located in Fruitvale. Guy Bertrand photo

Kootenay SAR teams aided by gaming grants

Four West Kootenay non-profits received gaming grants collectively tallying $185,000

An $89,000 grant for South Columbia Search and Rescue (SAR) will be stretched out over the year to help pay for specialty training like swift water and rope rescues, as well as essential gear, for 29 dedicated volunteers who are ready to provide emergency services at a moment’s notice.

Read more: Grand Opening for South Columbia SAR

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“South Columbia applies for B.C. gaming funds each and every year as almost all other SAR groups do as well,” explained Mike Hudson, the group’s president. “B.C. gaming funding is essential to our organizations and what we do.”

Money from Community Gaming Grants is also critical in keeping the rescue centre up and running and vehicles insured for a territory that reaches from Trail, Montrose, Fruitvale and Salmo, to land west of the Columbia River to the Kootenay Pass and north from the U.S. border to Ymir. Additionally, through mutual aid requests, South Columbia volunteers regularly assist neighbouring SAR groups and support teams across B.C. as needed.

At present, British Columbia SAR societies do not receive funding from the province to help pay for everyday expenses such as facility maintenance, utilities and insurances, or equipment purchases and vital training.

“And the list goes on and on,” Hudson said. “Most groups rely on BC Gaming to keep the lights on and the doors open so we can provide rescue services to our communities and those around us.”

South Columbia has been successful with the grant for sometime, though Hudson says they don’t always get what they ask for.

“In most cases we usually see about 85 per cent of what our needs are,” he said, clarifying this year’s request was $99,000. “This grant process is extremely involved and is a considerable amount of work. Due to so many organizations it can often be tough for us to get all of the maximum funding we apply for.”

The balance is covered by the regional districts of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) and Central Kootenay (RDCK), though local businesses are also a big help in making ends meet.

“We do receive a portion of our funding from the RDKB and RDCK for our efforts, which is always very much appreciated,” Hudson said. “As well, several local businesses support our needs with discounts from printing services, equipment purchases and repair costs. All are of equal importance to help us stretch the BC Gaming funding to help us be certified to go out and provide the services that we do.”

In addition to ground and water tactics, South Columbia SAR members also train in avalanche response, high angle rope rescue, advanced first aid, tracking, K9, and Class D Longline Rescue (helicopter extraction).

“Although we are all volunteers, the costs for training and equipment is expensive,” Hudson said. “We must be trained to high industry standards and trained to the newest rescue techniques we can.”

South Columbia SAR was one of three local society’s that received funding for 2019. Others recipients include Rossland and District SAR with a $77,000 grant and $85,000 to Grand Forks SAR.



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