This summer’s strange playbook — first flooding, then fire — has been just as strange for Central Okanagan Search and Rescue.
“We were busy during the spring and early summer, but when they shut down the back country, it made life easier,” spokesman Duane Tresnich said, with calls for lost hikers and bikers virtually drying up.
The B.C. provincial government closed access on August 11 to large swaths of the province as the number of wildfires burning soared during this summer’s hot, dry weather.
Tresnich said search and rescue volunteers were also busy before that, helping RCMP go door-to-door alerting residents to evacuation orders, first for local flooding then for wildfires, such as the one that destroyed eight houses in Lake Country in mid-July.
With fire risk abating and the back country reopening in time for hunting season, his worry now is pent up demand will see hunters and outdoor enthusiasts rush into the wilderness before the snow flies.
“They want to get their skills back up, they want to get in as many trips in as they can before winter,” Tresnich said.
Of particular concern, Tresnich says, is hunters who leave only a vague description of where they are hunting, hoping to keep their secret spots concealed from competitors.
Instead, they wind up lost and volunteers have to search a much wider area, taking up more time and scant resources, he says.
If he had his way, all back country users would be equipped with a life-saving GPS messaging system equipped with an SOS button.
“If you can’t do that, at least give someone some details of where you're going to be,” he says. “Near Beaver Lake doesn’t tell us very much.”
He also asks back country users to leave a time when they expect to be home. And he asks those at home to waste no time reporting it if the person is overdue.
“That waiting 24 hours is from television,” he says. “You don’t have to wait 24 hours to report someone missing. If they aren’t home on time and you feel something is wrong, report them missing right away.”
Tresnich says it’s much easier and safer to find someone during daylight hours than in the dark of night.
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