Kamloops Search and Rescue (KSAR) set a new record for operational periods in 2018 and with the workload not likely to slow down this year, the team is growing instead.
They ended the year by recruiting 11 new members to bring their total to 47. Ten of those new recruits will have to go through training in the last weekend of January.
The organization fell just short of last year's record for task hours, logging 3,500 in 2018.
"The work was definitely manageable, but I mean, it is a strain because our volunteers are giving up something else to be there, whether it's work, family time or sleep," says KSAR spokesperson Jennifer Stahn. "Thirty-five hundred hours is a lot for just tasks alone, so obviously our members were quite busy with tasks this year. Luckily, we do have that option to call in mutual aid, so when we did find ourselves getting tired from those multiple day searches, we were able to call in mutual aid to come help us out as well."
Though they had fewer call-outs in 2018 as well (42 compared to 49 in 2017), teams were operating for longer with eight tasks that ran over multiple days. That included searches for Ryan Shtuka, Valerie Morris, Jennifer Baird, Troy Gold and a missing jet skier.
“Kamloops SAR has seen two of its most busy years on record in 2017 and 2018. Looking ahead to 2019, we anticipate an equally busy year,” KSAR president Alan Hobler says in a press release. “What has made us a successful team and allowed us to respond to the increased call-outs is our dedicated volunteers. These volunteers train tirelessly throughout the year so they are prepared to respond to any call-out."
There were a number of factors contributing to why SAR has been much busier in the past few years, including more requests from local RCMP and a need for their specialty teams (like dog tracking) in other areas of the Interior.
"The biggest one is that fact that we are seeing more recreation in our region," Stahn tells KamloopsMatters. "If you look at the tourism numbers, they've consistently been going up over the last several years and we tend to see the number of tasks trend with that tourism base."
She adds KSAR expects this trend of record years to continue.
"One other element that we're seeing is that our Adventure Smart programming is still very strong in Kamloops and I think that's part of the reason why we're not seeing more of an increase in task numbers, because people are getting the message of going out prepared and being safe when they go out to recreate."
With no sign in operations slowing down, the team will be looking for a new permanent home in 2019 to replace their temporary building in Mission Flats. A new hall would allow for more space for their growing number of members and equipment, and could potentially serve as a regional training centre for neighbouring search and rescue teams.
"Until we have that space we don't know what we'll be capable of. We have a couple of groups we've been working with to try and figure something out. We're confident there's a good chance we'll see something come to fruition in regards to a permanent space in 2019," says Stahn.