ASAR president Ken Peters said call volumes have doubled in the past decade and last year it responded to a record 61 callouts.
“By call volume, in B.C. we’re in the top five local search and rescue groups and there are 80 groups in the province,” he said.
ASAR has outgrown its facility attached to the Coombs-Hilliers Fire Department because the increase in rescues required ASAR to increase its vehicle fleet to five trucks, a utility terrain vehicle (UTV), a boat, two trailers and a mobile command centre. Three vehicles are stored at members’ homes because of the lack of space.
“Mobilizing equipment from multiple locations for an emergency situation slows our response time,” said Peters. He added the new location at Qualicum Beach airport will give quick access to the two key highways and shorten response times.
Peters said ASAR has already raised $900,000 of the $1.4 million needed for the new centre. The organization originally planned to expand its current hall to store more vehicles, but was told by the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) the land is reserved for the fire department.
Peters said ASAR will ask the RDN to buy its old facility for $300,000 because it is in good condition and can be used for fire department vehicle storage.
ASAR will request the RDN increase its yearly operating budget from $10,000 to $30,000, in addition to the capital grant.
Coun. Mark Chandler’s motion to provide a letter of recommendation to the RDN in support of the request was carried unanimously.