More than $10,000 of communications and navigations gear has been stolen from the Nechako Valley Search and Rescue (SAR) team.
Sometime in the past three weeks, the gear was taken from an unattended SAR truck awaiting repairs at a mechanical shop in Vanderhoof.
The equipment was reported stolen on Monday, Dec. 3, when a Nechako team member retrieved the truck from the shop and noticed the gear was missing.
The RCMP have since opened a case file and are investigating.
How the gear was stolen remains unclear, but it is believed that an individual posing as a SAR member entered the mechanical shop, asked for the keys, accessed the truck and made away with cases containing radios, global positioning systems (GPS) and compasses.
The theft of the waterproof radios in particular have dealt a serious blow to the SAR’s water rescue unit, said Nechako search leader Chris Mushumanski.
“That really sets us back in terms of being able to have good communication with our water team when in wet environments,” said Mushumanski.
The stolen GPS, which provide rescuers with precise coordinates for mapping and tracking, will also negatively affect Nechako SAR operations.
“In terms of the GPS, that was a fairly significant hit,” said Mushumanski.
“We’ve relied on them for seven, eight, nine years for our members in the field, to give them accurate information and allow them to navigate to different places quickly and effectively.”
Nechako SAR recently made arrangements with Avison Management, a provider of environmental and resource management services in Vanderhoof that employs numerous SAR personnel, to borrow their GPS and help find other gear for temporary use.
Prior to the theft, Nechako SAR submitted an application to the province for a Gaming Grant to purchase more gear for their water rescue team. If approved, the grant funding will instead be used to purchase new radios and GPS, said Mushumanski.
SAR provides services on a volunteer-basis and relies on fundraising and grants to cover expenses and operating costs.
In the past, the Nechako team has been summoned to assist with operations as far away as the coastal village of Klemtu and the District of Chetwynd, B.C.
Recently, Mushumanski and a fellow team member deployed to Terrace to help locate a missing American filmmaker, Warren Sill, whose body was recovered last month by a SAR swift water team.
Locally, Nechako SAR conducts searches in Vanderhoof, Fort. St. James, Fraser Lake and elsewhere.
“But across the province, if resources need to be brought in, they can be requested further and further afield,” said Mushumanski.
Oftentimes it is expected that a SAR team supply their own gear when called on for support.
“It greatly hinders our response if we don’t have those tools available,” said Mushumanski.
Because of the sketchy details surrounding the theft, the portability of the equipment and based on discussions with other SAR teams, Mushumanski isn’t optimistic that the gear will be recovered.
“It could be anywhere on the planet by this time,” he said.
Nonetheless, Nechako SAR appreciates the investigative efforts of the RCMP, as well as the outpouring of donation offerings from within the community to purchase new gear.
“At this point, we don’t feel we need to tap into that resource,” said Mushumanski.