The Sparwood SAR plans to use grant funding for a new F-450 truck outfitted with rescue equipment.

Sparwood Search and Rescue receives grant funding

A $176,180 combined grant has been given to three non-profit organizations that are dedicated to public protection in the East Kootenay.

A $176,180 combined grant has been given to three non-profit organizations that are dedicated to public protection in the East Kootenay. The funding comes in the form of the province’s Community Gaming Grant (CGG) program. The bulk of the funding will be allocated to the Sparwood Search and Rescue Society at $100,000, with Fernie’s Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association receiving $70,000 and the Fernie Volunteer Ski Patrol Society getting the remaining $6,180.

The Sparwood Search and Rescue Society (SAR) has allocated its funding toward a new truck, back up gear and insurance.

“We have the finances all planned out, $89,000 will be going toward a new truck.  So almost 90 per cent of the funding will go toward a Ford F-450 type truck,” said Ed Ehrler, SAR Manager. “It will have a custom equipment body on the back, it will be a dedicated tool vehicle for our command trailer.  It will also hold camp and back up rescue supplies. The balance will go toward some back up rescue equipment and the rest will be for insurance. It costs a lot to insure our stuff, it’s over several thousand dollars a year.”

The grants come from the Public Safety category of the CGG program. This allows non-profit organizations and programs to apply for provincial gaming funding from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. These are not the only two categories that fall under the gaming grants. Human and Social Services, Sports and Arts and Culture, Parent Advisory Councils and District Parent Advisory Councils and Environment are also groups that can potentially receive funding.

“The East Kootenay has everything imaginable for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors,” Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett said in a press release. “Fortunately, we also have some of the best search-and-rescue crews ready to put their lives on the line to save others, and I am proud that our government continues to support their vital work.”

Every year, the provincial government approves $135 million in gaming grants. The endowments support more than 5,000 local non-profit organizations that serve their communities throughout British Columbia. Organizations interested in applying for a CGG grant can do so through the grants section of gaming.gov.bc.ca

The Sparwood SAR is also looking for more volunteers.

“We have around 20 active members.  We are actually recruiting at the moment to bring our numbers up a bit to make for more shift work,” said Ehrler. “We have a variety of volunteer positions to fill that are not just the responders who go out in the bush and find and rescue people. We also look for people to do administration, maintenance and fundraisers.”

Ehrler wants to remind outdoor enthusiasts to be prepared for the winter season.

“It is the winter season; we are getting snow up on the mountains. Anyone who is going up on the mountains should definitely have avalanche equipment and training as well as check for avalanche conditions on Avalanche.ca before they go out,” said Ehrler.

The society typically responds to more than a dozen calls a year. The operations can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The types of responses can change from year to year.

“We usually see 12 to 14 responses a year. Some of those are a quick few hours. Some are longer and take two or three days of search operations,” said Ehrler. “It varies from year to year.  We do not have much of a busy season, sometimes we have more calls during the winter but lately we have had a couple over the summer.”

Without this grant, the Sparwood SAR would not be able to operate effectively.

“It is definitely a useful grant program to us.  We thank the British Columbia government for the funding. Without the funding we would probably not be able to run a search and rescue operation. It’s vital in the mountains of British Columbia,” said Ehrler.