The Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue Group (BVSAR) is building a new 6,500-square-foot facility by the Smithers airport but are currently at a stand still.
Right now the search and rescue group meets and has some of their equipment stored in the basement of the Ranger Park building but have outgrown the space.
“We have over the past 10 years been growing every year, both getting busier with the amount of searches we do and being successful with getting more equipment,” said BVSAR president Fred Oliemans.
“So progressively we’ve been getting more squeezed with where we are at. The Town has been supportive of us by letting us use the basement of the Ranger Park building and we were using the old Highways shed to store our rolling stock. We outgrew that. So we ended up having to rent a space in town for the vehicles, and as a non-profit organization we don’t want to do a long-term rental.”
The non-profit organization, made up of about 30 team members, has started putting up the new facility but has run out of money. The walls, roof and windows are up but it’s empty inside.
“We had a little bit of money set aside and it got to a point where we had to something. So we worked with the Town and they were very good at supplying us with a piece of land at the airport. It is a long-term lease so we don’t have to buy land,” said Oliemans. “Also, we are getting yearly funding from the Province.”
However, they are still short. About another $300,000 needs to be raised in order to finish the building. In total, the project will cost about $450,000.
The new facility will feature three drive-through bays for their vehicles, two bathrooms, an equipment room for the smaller stuff, and a kitchen. There will also be a second floor with a training room and four offices. One office will be for PEP AIR, and another for the amateur radio club.
“It amalgamates all of the emergency response capability into one spot. Up until now PEP AIR has used the facility at the Ranger Park and we’ve shared an office with the radio club, and it is pretty cramped,” explained Oliemans. “The new facility is also right beside SilverKing Helicopters and Highland Helicopters is also there, so we will have fairly fast access to a helicopter if we need it.”
The group gets about 25-35 call outs every year and Oliemans thinks having a new facility will help generate more volunteers.
“There is a significant effort that has to happen after the call out to get everything cleaned up and ready to go again. It is sometimes hard to get people to help out with that. We are on call 24/7, 365 days a year. We’ve had in the past multiple call outs in one day so that has to be in the back of our minds, to always be ready,” he said.
Oliemans isn’t sure exactly why the calls for help have been increasing every year but thinks there is more technology like satellite phones and more cell service so when people are stuck in the back country they can call for help, and there are just simply more people going out to the backcountry.
The group is currently starting a fundraising campaign and applying for grants to finish the building.