January 07, 2016 - 11:30 AM
KAMLOOPS - With a wide variety of calls, including some that did not end well, it was a memorable year for local search and rescue volunteers, and with 22 new recruits now in training, 2016 is also shaping up to be a memorable year.
Last year Kamloops Search and Rescue was called out on about 35 searches. The type of calls varied greatly by season and ranged from hunters, missing snowmobilers, out of bounds skiers and missing ATV riders. They participated in large multi-group searches and even a cold case search.
Search Manager Alan Hobler also notes the group’s volunteers had more tragedy to deal with in 2015 than in previous years as well. The group was involved in the recovery of five deceased people this year, which Hobler says is the highest amount he’s seen in a year.
“It is a little hard in our searchers; they join to help people and when they can’t do it, they become part of someone else’s tragedy,” he says.
While the majority were serious calls, Hobler notes a couple of calls caused more frustration than others.
“We get calls sometimes for people that are drunk or did something stupid. It’s frustrating for us,” he says. “We had a couple more this year than usual, but it’s part of the game."
Hobler says with the group of new recruits in training, the organization now has close to 50 volunteers — the highest it’s ever been. He notes while it seems like a huge intake at the moment, the numbers will likely drop a year from now.
The four-month long ground search course, which started Monday, is a combination of book and field work under the direction of seasoned volunteers. The course runs once a week until April and is a ‘taxing’ process for the volunteers who help train those new recruits, Hobler says, noting the trainers often put in an additional 120 hours a year for the new recruits.
"It’s everything to do with the basic elements of being able to do ground search and rescue in B.C.,” he says. “We do some night exercises. We teach a wilderness survival course and tend to wrap up the exercises around midnight and our students have to go out and practice surviving the night."
In the night survival task students will have to find shelter and build themselves a fire to keep warm. Hobler remembers his first night out after signing on for search and rescue 10 years ago; he was in Bella Coola, and the designated area he was supposed to survive in was full of grizzly bears.
"The instructors really didn’t appreciate the area was full of grizzly bears. Of course you have to be alone,” he says.
While it was a memorable experience for Hobler, the new additions to the Kamloops team likely won’t have to worry about a similar experience.
Once certified in ground search and rescue volunteers can expand their knowledge and certifications into other areas, including swift water rescue and rope rescue.
Aside from the 50 volunteers now with the program, the service also utilizes two certified search and rescue dogs and has two others in training.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016