A CH-149 Cormorant, like the one pictured here, was used to help evacuate an injured hiker off the North Coast Trail at the end of July. Image by RCAF volunteer historian Mike Kaehler

Campbell River Search and Rescue off to busy start this summer

July and August are typically busy months for SAR groups provincially

It has been one of the busiest summers on record for search and rescue groups across the province.

In July, Emergency Management BC recorded 333 search and rescue related events. That’s the busiest July for the volunteer groups on record.

The large number is a concern to the BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA), which represents the province’s 79 ground search and rescue groups.

“This is an undesired record for any year,” said Jim McAllister, BCSARA board member. “It is more worrisome a record has been set during a pandemic.”

SAR groups conduct about 1,700 tasks each year with July and August typically being their busy season. According to the BCSARA, July’s tasks involved nearly 3,000 volunteer members, with some SAR groups between four and six tasks in one 24-hour period.

RELATED: B.C. search and rescue groups responded to 700 calls in first half of 2020

“This level of calls does put a strain on our members,” said McAllister, “but the challenge they have now is they have to protect themselves and the subjects from COVID-19. This requires a significant amount of personal protective equipment during the operation and decontamination after each one.”

Campbell River Search and Rescue (CR SAR) hasn’t been immune to rising calls.

Grant Cromer the manager of CR SAR, said that as of Aug. 18, their team was at 47 calls in just eight months.

“SAR call volume has risen dramatically in 2020 all over the province. COVID- 19 may have a part in that, as people have been cooped up and are anxious to get out and recreate. We don’t know the reason for sure, but the numbers show dramatic increase all over the province and SAR teams are being tasked out 2 and 3 times a day for multiple rescues,” said Cromer.

In July this year, CR SARresponded to 15 tasks, while in July 2019, they responded to nine, according to data from Emergency Management BC.

The group is having a busy start to August as well, having responded to four tasks so far this month, compared to four for all of August last year, the data indicates.

At the end of July, members responded via helicopter to rescue an unconscious woman on the North Coast Trail.

Due to limited light and pending nightfall, 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron was requested, said Corp. Phillippe Garneau, CH-149 flight engineer.

RELATED: Be safe while using the outdoors for social distancing, B.C. search and rescue group urges

He said the flying conditions were “ideal” and the CH-149 Cormorant helicopter arrived within an hour. SAR technicians hoisted down to the patient, conducted a medical assessment and hoisted the patient, their hiking partner and three ground SAR members. The patient was transported to Comox and transferred into the care of local emergency health services.

“Overall, the mission went very well,” he said, “and we’d like to remind people to be careful when doing any backcountry hiking: know your own limits, go with someone and, above all, be prepared.”

It wasn’t the only call 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron has assisted with recently.

On July 27, they were called to assist Campbell River SAR and Alberni Valley SAR members with evacuating three hikers from technical terrain near Margaret Lake in Strathcona Provincial Park.

RELATED: B.C. sees spike in search and rescue calls ahead of COVID-19 restrictions easing

On Aug. 3, they were also called to assist Campbell River SAR with rescuing a hiker near Mt. Thelwood in Strathcona Park.

With the growing number of SAR tasks, the BCSARA is asking for the public’s help in flattening its curve.

“We are currently heading in the wrong direction,” said Dwight Yochim, senior manager with BCSARA. “With August being our busiest month normally, July’s numbers are very concerning. We need the public’s help to flatten our curve.”

RELATED: Campbell River Search and Rescue have busy weekend


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Search and Rescue

Just Posted

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Duncan man at large after massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

Lumber hitting record high prices due to low supply and high demand

B.C.’s forest industry hasn’t been able to keep pace with the COVID-19 building boom

Vancouver Island Indigenous leaders support B.C. plan for old forest preservation

More than 260,000 hectares in Clayoquot Sound mapped for immediate old growth harvesting deferral

Rare fish washes onto Whiffin Spit in Sooke

Deep water fish identified as ‘King-of-the-salmon’

B.C.’s top doctor thanks supporters after revealing threats over COVID-19 measures

Dr. Bonnie Henry says COVID-19 has caused some people to lash out in anger and frustration out of fear

Money laundering inquiry delayed over of B.C. election: commissioner

Austin Cullen says the hearings will start again on Oct. 26

Lockdown quickly lifted at Nanaimo District Secondary School

NDSS was under lockdown mid-morning Friday, Sept. 25

B.C. salmon farms challenge activists’ demands for site closures

News reporting also unfair, inaccurate and distorted

‘Monkey Beach’ supernatural film adaptation premiers at VIFF

Based on Kitamaat author Eden Robinson’s debut, mystical novel

Police seeking whereabouts of 15-year-old Campbell River girl

Pohlman was last seen near the 200 block of Evergreen Road in Campbell River

Vancouver Island police encourage safe driving as rain pools on roads

Slow down, inspect vehicle ahead of driving in wet autumn weather

B.C.-born Trybe social media app’s award system connects with Nickelback singer

Rock stars, jet planes, scooter tricks and the creation of a new platform ready for launch

B.C. VOTES 2020: Speculation tax misses speculators, B.C. Liberals say

Andrew Wilkinson, John Horgan clash over housing costs, solutions

Most Read