The South Cariboo Search and Rescue has restarted in-person training sessions, after suspending them due to COVID-19.
The team members, which have kept up to speed with online learning and courses, began a return to their regular routine in July, spending a weekend on rope rescue and swift water combination exercises where they placed the subject on an embankment above a creek. This allowed them to practice lowering a rescue to the ‘victim’ and transferring them down to kayaks in the creek for evacuation.
To help protect the search and rescue members, the team purchased the necessary supplies to sanitize their equipment after every use and allow those at higher risk to not attend weekly meetings.
The South Cariboo Search and Rescue covers the same jurisdiction as the 100 Mile RCMP, stretching from 132 Mile to 70 Mile and Lac des Roches and to the Fraser River, including Clinton. However, they can be called to assist fellow search and rescue groups across the province if needed.
So far, though, it’s been a quiet summer with few calls, according to Val Severin, a 19-year volunteer and current shift manager of the local organization. Top incidents included assisting in rescuing a hang glider in Williams Lake and locating two missing ATV riders.
‘There’s really hardly ever the same call twice,” Severin said.
The group currently has 53 members but Severin said they always welcome new people from the community, with a variety of skill sets and experience levels. New members are given basic training and once they complete a full year – and pass a probationary period – they will be eligible to volunteer. Those looking to join are encouraged to drop by the South Cariboo Search and Rescue Hall, at 5830 Horse Lake Road, on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. for an introduction, tour of the hall and an interview process.
The hall is used to conduct certain training activities, as well as store two vehicles, a command trailer, equipment trailer, Zodiac, three kayaks and a cataraft. Severin said this summer they have started constructing an additional building to give them more space to store their gear, joking that they currently have “a lot of stuff and no space to put it.”
“It’s a unique group of people because we have such a wide variety. We even have a program through the high school where the kids can get their work and experience through search and rescue,” said Severin, a rope tech, swift water rescue technician and a specialist in avalanche rescue response. “So we have everyone from high school kids to funeral directors to bank tellers to folks who are retired, we have roles for everybody. So when you take that mix of people and put them in a room it’s a really good time.”
Severin is hoping their group will benefit from a B.C. government funding model, which will distribute $6 million per year to ground search and rescue groups across the province. This funding will be allocated by the BC Search and Rescue Association. Severin said the annual funding commitment is a huge relief, as it will allow groups to begin progression planning for the future.
As the Cariboo is now approaching its fire season, Severin encourages everyone to stay vigilant and do their part to keep 100 Mile House safe. Due to the extra challenges of the pandemic, she said the group is hopeful that any fires can be kept under control.