B.C. search-and-rescue teams renew call for new funding model

Click to play video: 'Should search and rescue workers be paid?'
Should search and rescue workers be paid?
WATCH: After another string of rescues, search and rescue volunteers are once again calling for paid searchers. Aaron McArthur has more – Sep 6, 2016

For five hours on Monday, Whistler Search and Rescue (SAR) crews along with firefighters struggled against difficult terrain and falling rocks to lift a hiker from the bottom of Brandywine Falls.

It was a rescue caused by a couple who ignored multiple warning signs to extend their Labour Day hike.

“The male decided that he was going to attempt to scale one of the faces. That did not end well for him. He sustained a fall and serious injuries to his lower leg,” Brad Sills of Whistler Search and Rescue said.

All over British Columbia, search crews are being pressed for resources as call volumes increase. The provincial government has increased funding for the teams, but many say it’s not enough to support B.C.’s 80 search-and-rescue groups.

“These SAR teams are completely, 100 per cent volunteer and they really do need financial support to keep doing what they do,” Sills said.

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WATCH: Should B.C. search-and-rescue crews be paid?

Click to play video: 'Calls for search & rescue members to be paid'
Calls for search & rescue members to be paid

North Shore Rescue is the busiest team in the province and team leaders say changes to funding need to be considered, including the possibility of moving from a volunteer model to one where crew members are paid.

“If we are going to have ever-increasing call volume I think something needs to change,” Mike Danks of North Shore Rescue said. “I think the paid on-call [model] sounds interesting, I really welcome any debate on it.”

At a press conference Tuesday, BC Premier Christy Clark said the government is aware of the issue.

“I think we have the best funded volunteer search and rescue anywhere in the country by a long shot, but we know we need to change the funding model, we need to chance some of the ways that it’s run,” BC Premier Christy Clark said Tuesday.

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While some argue people should be charged for the cost of their rescue, search-and-rescue teams have said they do not want go down that path.

– With files from Aaron McArthur

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