Quiet summer for Nanaimo Search and Rescue

Group begins fundraising for replacement vehicles

Three walkers are safe after getting lost during an excursion to Ammonite Falls last week.

Kevin McNeill, Nanaimo Search and Rescue past-president and spokesman, said three people decided to do the hike in flip flops. The only provisions the hikers brought were a couple cases of beer.

When it got dark, the people were unable to make their way back and called the police, who in turn called search and rescue volunteers.

McNeill said searchers went to the last reported location, but couldn’t find the lost hikers because they had continued wandering. After three hours, the hikers found themselves at the top of Jameson Road, where police picked them up.

In previous years, this type of callout wouldn’t be uncommon, but McNeill said it has been a quiet summer for the Nanaimo organization.

The group gets three or four calls per month during an average summer, but this year there was only about two calls per month and almost all have been to help other search organizations on the Island, he said.

“I think it’s because of the summer – there hasn’t been one,” said McNeill.

While there have been fewer callouts, the need for the group is still there and members launched a fundraising campaign to replace their aging rescue vehicles.

“We’re looking at replacing all three of them,” said McNeill. “They keep breaking down. If you can’t get the truck out of the bay, what’s the point in having it?”

The organization has determined that replacing the command truck will cost $164,000, $40,000 of which is covered by a Joint Emergency Preparedness Program grant and $80,000 from an individual donor.

“It’s not only our command vehicle, it’s also for the [Regional District of Nanaimo],” said McNeill.

The RDN makes use of the command vehicle for small events that involve several jurisdictions, he said.

Nanaimo SAR also has a swiftwater rescue vehicle and road rescue truck and all three are around the same age – 1980s or early ’90s.

Chris Fernandes, a member of the fundraising committee, said so far the team has started a letter-writing campaign to local organizations and businesses.

McNeill said the group is also looking for people who want to help with the administrative, maintenance and fundraising side of things. These members would not be required to go through the search and rescue training, but would still be full members of Nanaimo Search and Rescue.

For more information on how to donate, please call Fernandes at 250-729-6224 or go to www.nanaimosar.bc.ca.