New funding has been announced for several search and rescue organizations in the Kootenay region, including ColumbiaValley Search and Rescue.
The local search and rescue crew will receive just over $82,000, and seven other search and rescue organizations fromCranbrook to Revelstoke will each get between $25,000 and $100,000, thanks to a one-time funding from the provincialgovernment. In total, more than $500,000 will go to Kootenay search and rescue teams, all stemming from thegovernment’s $10 million funding commitment to the B.C. Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA). The money is meant tohelp the search and rescue crews improve training, administrative support, buy new equipment and replace old equipment.
“It’s fantastic. It was unexpected and it will help us out a lot. We’re going to do some upgrades and do some training andwe’re quite happy about it,” Columbia Valley Search and Rescue manager and Society vice-president Steve Talsma told TheEcho. “I don’t want to sound negative, because this really is great new for us, but at the same time, it is a one-time paymentspread over two years, so it’s not a long-term solution to the ongoing funding struggles we have.”
Some search and rescue crews in the province are funded through taxes, while others — such as Columbia Valley Searchand Rescue and most of the other search and rescue teams in the East Kootenay — do their own fundraising.
“It makes it difficult, since you don’t know for certain how much funding you have from year to year. When you don’t knowthat, do you purchase a new rescue vehicle knowing you may not be able to afford to put fuel in it or insurance on it? We doget some grants, but most grants can’t be used for things such as fuel, insurance, satellite phones — the day-to-day billsthat search and rescue teams have. It gets tricky because as a non-profit society, we’re not allowed to put money away for arainy day,” said Talsma. “We spent a lot more time last year working on grants and a lot less time on training than we’dlike.”
“The work our search and rescue volunteers do is nothing short of heroic, putting their own lives on the line to help othersin very challenging conditions,” said Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett in a provincial government press release accompanyingthe funding announcement. “These are essential organizations in our communities and this funding will help them makeneeded upgrades and improve their services to the public.”
The $10 million in BCSARA funding will take place over a two-year period, based on the Alternative Support Modelsupported by BCSARA members organizations, with funding allocations given according to the needs and capacity of thelocal search and rescue teams, as determined by a formula drawn up the BCSARA.