Sparwood SAR held their grand re-opening in their newly rennovated location, Monday, May 7. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Sparwood SAR holds grand reopening

Search and rescue team recovers after fire destroyed its headquarters in December 2016

On December 17, 2016, Sparwood Search and Rescue (SAR) lost the majority of their equipment to a fire in their facility. Everything that was in the hall was either destroyed or smoke damaged.

This disaster ended up costing the volunteer organization approximately $350,000. It was a long journey back to recovery but on Monday, May 7, they finally opened the doors to their brand new facility.

On December 17, 2016 Sparwood SAR lost their facility to a fire. Sparwood SAR photo
Utility garage in Sparwood SAR’s new facility. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Thirty individuals make up the group of volunteer rescue personnel.

Sparwood SAR started out in the late 1970s as a group of outdoor enthusiasts who would help out when needed in the community. As time went on they became more organized and eventually moved into the Sparwood Fire Hall.

They have been in their current location on Douglas Fir Rd since 2010, and were planning to renovate the space in the next three years but the fire accelerated that schedule.

Fortunately, both rescue trucks, fully packed with gear, were parked outside the building when the fire occurred, and were undamaged.

Additionally, the command trailer and snowmobiles were also outside so Sparwood SAR was still able to respond to emergencies over the winter season.

For the year that followed the disaster, SAR had to improvise, but managed to stay operational the entire time.

“Our office space was out of our command trailer, we had a large tent out back and a shipping container, and that was the SAR base,” said Sparwood SAR manager Ed Ehrler.

“You can tell we’ve come a long way in the last year.”

In addition to an insurance payout, Sparwood SAR received a large sum of money through donations from the public.

“A lot of really generous donors helped us out, and we were able to get the place rebuilt into a newer, better facility,” said Ehrler.

The space in the new facility is more effective for a search and rescue team.

Before SAR took over the space in 2010, the building was used for commercial purposes.

A bay in the back was available but too small to fit a SAR truck. The office space in the front was also too small.

The newer, more modern facility features a better floor plan and amenities.

Volunteers now have a better space for meetings and briefings as well as a larger, dedicated dispatch room.

Meeting room in the new Sparwood SAR facility. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

“It’s a very good feeling,” said Ehrler, standing in the new dispatch room.

“We’ve actually run three search and rescue operations out of this building since we moved back in, in the early winter, and it’s been working really well for us.”

Sparwood SAR is one of 80 search and rescue groups across B.C., their closest neighbours on either side being Elkford, Fernie, Cranbrook and Kimberley.

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Jack Turner participating in Sparwood Search and Rescue’s grand reopening. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

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