After nearly 20 years of volunteer service, Mike Fournier is retiring at the end of December as co-ordinator of the Comox Valley Emergency Program.
More than 100 volunteers comprise the program, which includes Search and Rescue, Emergency Support Service and a radio/communications group. A lifetime member, Fournier will continue with CVEP in some capacity, perhaps tending to the building on Moray Avenue or looking after radios, batteries and other equipment.
The program’s biggest search lasted two weeks last year when Sylvia Apps went missing while hiking in Strathcona Park.
“Every other search was successful,” said Fournier who, along with Ruth Masters, founded the Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue (CVGSAR) in the early-70s.
Back then, he was the ski patrol supervisor at Forbidden Plateau. A night search for a missing person prompted the idea to form a search and rescue team. Fournier recalls the first search was for a mental patient who went missing from hospital.
The organization was incorporated in 1974.
“We were the first ground search and rescue society in B.C.”
Over the years, the society has grown from 10 to 50-plus members. It’s one of the busiest teams in the province, averaging 35 searches a year.
After Forbidden closed, Fournier initiated the volunteer ski patrol at Mount Washington.
“I was the first one to get caught in an avalanche at Mount Washington,” said Fournier, who was buried in about six feet of snow. He suffered a broken femur and spent a month in hospital.
Fournier was ski cutting when the avalanche occurred. He recalls hitting three trees during the run.
“That’s what stopped me from going to the bottom,” he said. “The next day they ordered dynamite.”
In 1978, Fournier opened Mountain Meadows Sports in downtown Courtenay. His business partner was Ed Schum, whom he knew from Mount Washington.
“I sold my business to take this job (CVEP co-ordinator),” said Fournier, who hails from Quebec City.
Before entering the sporting goods business, he had a career in the Armed Forces. Fournier was first stationed in Cold Lake, Alta. — where he met his wife, Linda, and where “50 below is not unusual.” He transferred to Montreal before moving to the Comox Valley in 1969.
He and Linda live in Courtenay. They have two sons.
Fournier hopes to play a bit of golf in his retirement.
“I can stand the par threes,” he said.