Fort St. James Search and Rescue standing by in case of emergency at the Caledonia Classic dog sled races on Feb. 5, 2022. (Photo by Michael Bramadat-Willcock/Caledonia Courier)

Fort St. James Search and Rescue standing by in case of emergency at the Caledonia Classic dog sled races on Feb. 5, 2022. (Photo by Michael Bramadat-Willcock/Caledonia Courier)

Fort St. James Search and Rescue raising funds to buy a building

Lack of a central location slows down response times during emergency situations, director says

Fort St. James Search and Rescue (FSJSAR) is seeking donations to buy a building to use as a base of operations and store equipment amid growing demand.

The search and rescue team provides emergency services to Fort St. James and surrounding communities, often helping the RCMP and BC Emergency Health Services with incidents involving missing or lost persons, medical extrications, natural disasters, body recoveries and wildfire evacuations.

That’s a role that FSJSAR Director Shelby Oe said requires both speed and efficiency. The non-profit relies on a dedicated group of professional volunteers in the community who are doing the best they can with what they have.

As volunteers, search and rescue members also provide some of their own supplies and equipment, and often take their own vehicles to searches, Oe said.

“Depending on the situation, 20 minutes can be the difference between life and death.. So it’s incredibly important that we have a quick response time.”

READ MORE: B.C. search and rescue teams had another record year in 2021

But the small bay attached to the fire hall where they now operate doesn’t fit all their equipment — that can slow down response time in emergency situations. The team has found a new location that they say would be perfect but need to meet their donation goals in a short timeframe. That’s why they’re looking for support from the community to make that goal a reality.

“With this building we would be able to have all of our equipment, all of our vehicles and all of our supplies in one single location,” Oe said.

“It’s also heated so we wouldn’t be fighting with dead batteries or cold equipment and we wouldn’t be trying to gather different pieces of equipment and supplies from different loctions.”

A central location would help improve service to outdoor professionals and recreationalists and support training activities, education, and community involvement. Oe said the building could also serve as a multipurpose emergency operations centre where Emergency Management BC could set up an office during flooding or for wildfires.

Meanwhile, there were 17 calls for service in 2021 and Oe said that number is expected to grow along with an increase in volunteer hours.

“We have a lot of people that do outdoor professional work and a lot of outdoor recreational enthusiasts. That’s something that I think many people in Fort St. James see progressing as time goes on,” Oe said.

“We’re expecting to only be receiving more calls in the future. Having a building is not only going to help us provide better service and have quicker response times — it’s also going to show our commitment to outdoor recreation and tourism within our district. I think that would help give people confidence about coming here for outdoor recreation, knowing that they have that service available in case something goes wrong.”

If you would like to donate or learn more about supporting the search and rescue team’s efforts to purchase the building, you can visit their GoFundMe campaign or contact them by email at fsjsarinfo@gmail.com

READ MORE: BC Search and Rescue groups warning against use of What3Words app


 

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