Paul Berry, president of Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue. Black Press file photo

Paul Berry, president of Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue. Black Press file photo

Comox Valley ground SAR team cautiously pleased with provincial funding announcement

The president of the Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue is pleased but cautious about the announcement of a funding boost of $18.6-million for B.C.’s search and rescue volunteers, announced by the Province last weekend.

Earlier this month, Paul Berry of CVGSAR said two pieces of funding from the past Liberal and current NDP governments have assisted the 80 search groups from around the province, but the last bit of funding was set to expire at the end of March.

It left groups scrambling to prepare for the shortfall.

With the most recent announcement, Berry said he is pleased to hear of the funding put forth but is also looking for more opportunities to work with the government to establish continued funding – such as a line item in the budget – for ground SAR teams.

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“We’re still being cautious because the funding is not yet in our bank account and we’re not sure what the amount will look like,” he explained but added he believes it should be in the range of $85 to $90,000 per team annually.

The $18.6-million will be used over three years to replace equipment, bolster training, provincial initiatives, fund the Critical Incident Response Team and daily operations.

During Saturday’s announcement, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnsworth said the province will be creating a partnership committee, made up of Emergency Management BC staff and search and rescue representatives, to create a policy on future funding.

The committee will also be in charge of distributing the new money as needed by the various teams.

The BC Search and Rescue Association has been lobbying the provincial government for consistent funding for ground SAR teams on an annual basis since 2013, Berry explained.

He noted the funding boost will assist with training levels and while the team is very prudent and cautious with equipment, they will be replacing an aging vehicle soon.

CVGSAR along with Campbell River ground SAR is just about to offer helicopter hoist rescue – only the second team in the province to be able to offer the service. Between 12 to 16 members within the two teams will have the ability to offer the service and provide enough capacity for the Island.

Berry said because of the use of helicopter time, there will be a significant amount of funds used but with two teams trained on the Island, they will be able to respond anywhere throughout the region.

-With files from Ashley Wadhwani