B.C. reports increased backcountry search and rescue calls

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue photo.
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As winter settles in and calls for search and rescue continue to rise, the B.C. government is urging people to plan and prepare before heading into B.C.’s backcountry.

“People are getting stuck or lost and we’re finding they’re unprepared for the elements or haven’t familiarized themselves with their route,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general. “This can be dangerous, not only for the people who are in distress, but also for the search and rescue crews deployed to help.”

The province said crews have been deployed for almost 1,600 search and rescue missions since April. Ground search and rescue crews have responded to more than 300 additional callouts this year compared to the same period in 2019, which had 1,265 deployments, according to the B.C. government.

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue (SAR) received 58 calls so far this year — around the same as last year, according to search manager Nick Rivers. 

The area has seen a significant increase in calls in the past 10 years, Rivers said. When he joined Arrowsmith SAR in 2010, the most common incident was a missing senior.

“Ten years ago we were doing about 20 calls a year and now we’re doing over 60,” he said.

Now SAR does a lot more technical rescues, such as getting a person with two broken legs out of a crevasse on Little Mountain or a swift water rescue by Little Qualicum Falls, according to Rivers.

He said he thinks the increase comes from a larger population and a younger crowd who are more influenced by social media.

“A picture from the bottom of the mountain is not what they want. A picture from the top of the mountain is really what they’re after and that leads to some choices that would be different than previously [before Instagram,]” said Rivers.

The increase in technical rescues means SAR needs to fundraise for new equipment, which is made more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, according to Rivers.

“A lot of the big events that we would be doing and planning — they don’t look the same,” he said. 

SAR is currently working on fundraising about $25,000 to add night vision helicopter capability, as well as $30,000 for a helicopter hoisting program which would allow people to be picked up and carried directly to hospital, according to Rivers.

“We have to fundraise for every piece of equipment. We’ve got a list of gear that we need and we can’t buy it, there is no money to buy the equipment with,” said Rivers, adding Arrowsmith SAR is 100 per cent volunteer run.

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