The Fernie Search and Rescue (SAR) team is always there when you need them, no matter what time of day it is.
It’s also made up entirely of volunteers who dedicate their free time to providing rescue and aid to those who find themselves in some not so good situations.
Simon Piney is one of those volunteers, and he said he’s been volunteering with Fernie SAR for 16 years.
“It was really small back then, there was only about eight or 10 of us,” Piney said.
“I was involved with the running of it from as soon as I joined.”
Piney said for most of the volunteers being a part of SAR becomes a very important part of their lives, and there’s two reasons he’s been there for so long.
“One is that ability to help other people. It’s very rewarding to have the skills and the ability to get out there and help people when they’re in need,” said Piney.
“The second reason is just to be able to work with such an amazing group of people.”
Piney is one of three SAR managers in Fernie so one of them is always on-call, which means he must be ready to go at any moment.
“24/7, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, whatever it is,” said Piney.
“You can’t drink alcohol, you need to be reasonably close to town.”
But Piney said they aren’t prohibited from living life and can indulge and take vacation as with any job – they just schedule that time off in advance.
He said he’s fortunate to live in Fernie and has a lot he enjoys doing on his off time.
“Most of my time is spent, like most people around here, climbing, hiking, skiing, mountain biking – all the things that Fernie is famous for,” he said.
Piney said he grew up in Switzerland, went to university in London, England, worked in London and Paris in finance for 15 years before he ended up in Fernie.
“My wife and I always had a deal with each other, so when we had kids we would leave living in a big city and find somewhere back in the mountains,” said Piney.
“And for a variety of reasons we ended up deciding to do that in Canada.”
He said they originally only came to Fernie for a season, but like so many others ended up staying.
Over the 16 years with SAR Piney said a lot has changed aside from the number of members increasing.
“We had an old BC Hydro truck, which was donated by BC Hydro which is really generous of them, but it was not a rescue truck,” said Piney.
“And we had a handful of radios … and we had no technical rescue teams. So we had some people who were skilled in avalanche but we didn’t have an avalanche team.”
He said now they have more equipment and teams capable of more rescues now that they have an Advanced Avalanche Rescue Team, a Rope Rescue Team, and Ice Rescue Teams, a K9 Team and CDFL (heli longling) Team.
“The SAR groups have all become much more professional in terms of the services they offer, the response capabilities,” he said.
“Now we have satphones and inreach devices and these amazing trucks and atvs and helicopter longline gear.”
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