Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue (BVSAR) has been fundraising for a new and permanent building, but when they were broken into last week, they had to switch fundraising gears.
On Wednesday night, April 7, the BVSAR hall at Ranger Park was forcibly broken into and their vital equipment was stolen. The thieves had to break down several doors and go through a boiler room to get to the equipment rooms.
An awl, (a small pointed tool) was used to pry open drawers and locks, and the street lights and lights on the building were disabled, according to BVSAR personnel who discovered the robbery and called the RCMP.
“The equipment that was taken is essential to the effective and safe operations of our team,” said Anastasia Ledwon, BVSAR president.
Some of the critically important equipment taken were numerous inReaches, which are specific GPS tracking devices, several iPads that are critical for mapping and tracking, numerous charging stations, satellite communication devices and a heavy-duty Rope Rescue backpack.
“The items they took were very specific electronic devices we use for search and rescue, and although they rifled through every drawer and made a mess, they didn’t steal other items,” Ledwon explained. “It was random but also specific. It was truly shocking to all of us.
“We volunteer for the community, providing resources to help ensure public safety in the backcountry recreation areas, and we do it for free, so stealing our gear, that is so critical to us, is devastating.”
While they can continue to operate using members’ personal gear, they now need to replace their team gear as soon as possible.
“We are, a 100 per cent volunteer-run and operated team, fully qualified, and our services are always free, and people are sometimes not aware of that,” Ledwon said.
The group continues to fundraise for their building at the airport where they are hoping to have all of their equipment, vehicles and specialized safety gear they need for search and rescue tasks all in one place. Once the building has plumbing, heating and electrical completed, they can begin to move in.
The plan, according to Ledwon, is to have all the groups that coordinate together on a search, to have a main place to work from. Along with BVSAR there is CASARA (Civil Air Search and Rescue Association) and the Amateur Ham Radio Club, along with the helicopter companies that all help when a search and rescue is necessary.
“It takes numerous groups and to all be coordinating from the same place is our goal.”
The BVSAR team continues to apply for grants, and they have their GoFundMe page, but they can also use volunteers who have specialties such as electricians, and contractors that can donate time to get the building finished.
“We are volunteers serving our communities, and we can use the help now of our community, and it would be greatly appreciated and end up helping each other out,” Ledwon admits.
There are currently 35 operationally qualified members of BVSAR, with 16 members in training, three non-operational support members, and seven qualified members that are currently unavailable or on leave.
There are specialty teams within the group that include a Winter Response Team, Swift Water Response Team, Rope Rescue Team, Advanced Medical Team and Ground Search and Rescue, which all the members are a part of.
BVSAR responds to an average of 30 calls a year, but the number of calls are going up now as more people are headed outdoors. the team members urge people to “adventure smart.” Go prepared, let people know where you are going. If you get lost, don’t panic, sit down, gather your thoughts, look around, be aware and call for help.
“Sometimes people are embarrassed to call for help or think if I just go a little further, then is the time to sit down, call for help and stay put,” Ledwon said.
“Call 911, make a fire, take a whistle with you, all of these help us find you.”
As one of the 79 Search and Rescue teams around the province, BVSAR requires having a number of specialized teams as this area, which is geographically large and diverse, also demands specialized training time from all the volunteers.
“It takes time, but the dedication of all of the people that volunteer is incredible, they are an amazing team that saves lives,” Ledwon said.
“We could use a little help ourselves right now.”
People with information that would assist in the recovery of the equipment are asked to contact the Smithers RCMP or call Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-8477 to give an anonymous tip.