The B.C. government announced $18.6 million in funding for the province’s ground search and rescue crews Saturday.
The funding is the largest cash investment into B.C.’s search and rescue network in the province’s history, Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said at the announcement in Coquitlam.
“These funds will fill an immediate need so that B.C.’s search and rescue crews can continue the important work they do,” Farnworth said.
The funds will be spread over three years and fund equipment, training and other activities for the 80 ground search and rescue crews throughout B.C. It will also be used to fund multiple programs run by those teams, including AdventureSmart and others that are geared towards outdoor safety education.
“These selfless volunteers are on call 24-7, 365 days a year, risking their lives to help people in need,” Housing Minister and Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson said at the announcement.
WATCH: (Aired Feb. 26) Aaron McArthur reports on calls for additional search and rescue funding in B.C.
“This record-level investment will also help British Columbians and visitors alike when they take advantage of our wonderful outdoors.”
Farnworth also announced the creation of a joint committee that will work to develop a sustainable long-term funding model. Two new staff positions have been created for Emergency Management B.C. to work with the B.C. Search and Rescue Association in order to achieve that goal.
“I know a long-term funding model for search and rescue crews has been a long time coming,” Farnworth said Saturday. “We want to build on the significant work done by B.C. search and rescue consultants and Emergency Management B.C. staff to create a solid foundation for the right model.
“Long-term funding was an issue when we formed government in 2017, and I can assure you that this government is committed to developing a model that works best for everyone. This funding is clear evidence of that.”
The funding is on top of the $9 million the province already provides annually to search and rescue crews to cover operational costs and deployment.
WATCH: (Aired Dec. 28, 2018) Nadia Stewart reports on North Shore Rescue’s latest record-breaking year
B.C. Search and Rescue Association president Chris Kelly was thankful for the funding, which he said is desperately needed.
“We will make sure to disperse the majority of the first year’s funds to search and rescue groups as soon as possible,” Kelly said. “I want to thank Minister Farnworth for this historic funding, which will help our teams over the next three years.”
The announcement comes after search and rescue crews were left out of the new spending promises outlined in the latest provincial budget.
At the time the budget was announced in February, the B.C. Search and Rescue Association had been hoping for $6 million in funding.
Search and rescue crews have regularly requested additional funding to allow for more staffing and equipment to manage the number of rescues from trails and backcountry areas, which has been growing over the past few years.
2018 saw a record-breaking 142 calls for North Shore Rescue alone.