The Okanagan’s largest search and rescue team said 2020 was the busiest year in its history, with crews responding to more than 80 emergencies in the backcountry and urban settings.
“Although COVID19 may be behind the increase in outdoor recreationalists, the team also responded to a record number of urban searches for distraught individuals and missing seniors and children,” Central Okanagan Search and Rescue (COSAR) said in a media release.
Rescuers also assisted in recovering four bodies, COSAR said.
Fifty-one search and rescue members volunteered over 20,000 hours in 2020 and half of that time was dedicated to training.
August was the busiest month with 16 calls. In all, the non-profit organization responded to 81 emergencies, while the group historically averages 55-60 calls a year.
The team also responded to 10 mutual aid calls, including evacuating residents near the Christie Mountain wildfire in Penticton and searching for a missing hiker in Manning Park.
On the resources front, COSAR said it added 14 new members and augmented its team’s capabilities by adding an RCMP-certified civilian search and rescue dog to its ranks.
The search and rescue team relies on public donations to keep it operational, it said.
COSAR received nearly $30,000 in donations in 2020, including $15,000 from the Central Okanagan Foundation and $2,500 from ReMax.
The remainder came from the public via the Cosar.ca donation button, the organization said.
COSAR said the donated money went towards first aid and rope team training, a TrailRider wheeled chair, and a new snowmobile.
The search team said its goal for 2021 is to find a new operations base closer to the Kelowna city centre and hopes to respond to fewer calls.
Meanwhile, Princeton Search and Rescue said on Facebook that 2020 was also its busiest year ever.
Princeton rescuers responded to 34 emergencies and logged 721 volunteer hours on calls.