Fernie Search and Rescue (FSAR) was busy last week with the first three calls of spring.
On June 8, the Fernie team was called out for a helicopter longline rescue of two women who were hiking Mount Wapiti and found themselves stranded on a ridge at about 2,300 metres elevation.
“They found themselves in a situation that was definitely appropriate for them to call for help,” said head of FSAR, Simon Piney.
“It’s a pretty high consequence place to try and get out at that point.”
The hikers called for help using cell service, and Elkford and Sparwood SARs brought in the Fernie team for helicopter longline support.
Piney said the ridge was extremely narrow and exposed, with a very tiny platform for them to stand on once longlined in.
FSAR took the hikers out one at a time, dropping them off at the Elkford heli-port.
They were checked out by the BC Ambulance Service, and Piney said there were no injuries.
The call for that rescue came in just after 1 p.m. Wednesday.
At around the same time that day, another FSAR team was heading up Hartley Lake Road for motorists who got stuck in snow.
FSAR, not knowing the exact nature of the situation which was reported via 911, went out with a rescue truck and ATVS, prepared to secure and stabilize the vehicle if necessary.
But, by the time they arrived, a local had already helped the motorists out, and they were on their way back down again.
Piney said FSAR didn’t have much to do in that case, just checked them over and sent them on their way.
A few days earlier, on June 4 at around 3 p.m., the team had their first rescue of the season, when a man suffered a shoulder injury following a dirt bike accident on a forest service road in the Jaffray-Baynes Lake area.
Piney said the biker had an inReach satellite communication device with him, and was able to give the rescuers good location information.
“We flew, and packaged him, stabilized him, and then flew him back,” he said.
The man was delivered to BC Emergency Health Services in Fernie.
According to Piney, the critical piece when it comes to rescues is communication and calling for help before nightfall.
Once the sun goes down, it significantly limits their options, he said.
“In all cases of these three rescues, we’re very happy that those people chose to call when they did.”
Cell service or a satellite communication device are both ways to communicate. The latter can be found at gear stores in Fernie. The former is not always available, and Piney has emphasized the importance of satellite communication before.
“In all cases, they were able to communicate. And so again, those are, from our point of view, the critical part of a rescue.
“If they can’t ask for help, then nobody’s going to come and help them.”
Piney explained how to get in touch with SAR when the need arises.
He said that, in a call with a 911 dispatcher, it’s important to clearly state “It’s a back country emergency and I want search and rescue.”
Dispatchers may be located out of town, and not recognize local regions or trails, and time will be lost while they try to figure it out, he said.
“But if you state, ‘I’m in the back country and I’m going to need search and rescue’, it just speeds things up.”