May 1 deadline for GADSAR road rescue

As of May 1, GADSAR will no longer be performing road rescues.

At an annual general meeting on Feb. 2, 2012 the membership of the Golden and District Search and Rescue unanimously passed a motion that as of May 1 the group will be unable to continue to be the sole provider of road rescue services to rural Golden.

Officially, GADSAR took on the responsibilities of auto extrication in May 2001 and was committed to providing this service on the Trans Canada Highway, Highway 95 and secondary roads in the Golden area.

However over the years the group has found it difficult to be at the forefront for both highway and mountain rescues.

“We are just finding it is the sustainability of both programs. At this point we are sacrificing road rescue to try and sustain search and rescue. To try and do both with the same group of people is just too much,” said GADSAR President and SAR Manager Shauna Speers. She went on to explain the group has 25-30 members on paper with approximately 12 who look after administration, upkeep, and the equipment and fundraising.

In  a letter to the Regional Manager of PEP (Provincial Emergency Program) South East Region GADSAR explained why the decision was made to stop providing the service. The combination of lack of provincial support for rural road rescue, volunteer burn out, the overall cost of replacement of equipment and lack of a facility were all given as partial reasons for the choice the group has made. As for what is going to happen as of May 1 the future is still unclear.

GADSAR representatives met with the local fire chief, representatives from the Town of Golden, EMBC, BC Ambulance, Ministry Transportation, the local MLA’s assistant and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District Emergency Program Co-ordinator to explain their decision.

“There are different options. We were hoping that maybe Golden Fire would take it over because that’s what the model looks like in other rural communities around British Columbia,” Speers said while acknowledging this could be difficult for the volunteer fire department in the town. According to a ministry spokesperson EMBC is fully engaged in helping the community and stakeholders find a solution to the issue and options for establishing local road rescue services, both for the short-term and longer term, are also being investigated.

Spears explained that even though finances are part of the problem, money alone would not rectify the situation.

“It is and it isn’t. Right now if we got a whole bunch of money thrown at us, it wouldn’t change our mind. This is not us seeking more funding. We are hoping that with us bringing light to it hopefully they will look at compensating things,” Speers said.

“We really hoped things would move quicker with the province. It took them a month to get the first meeting going on a time sensitive manner. Then they were ‘lets have another meeting asap’ and now the next meeting again will be another month down the road. The pace that things are occurring are quite slow.”

As for now the group is hoping something will be worked out by the deadline they have set.

“We want that to be a firm deadline for the province. If we know there is something firmly in the works, we may, and that is a very soft may, extend that deadline to accommodate a transitional period. But if there is nothing else going on to that point we will wash our hands of it,” she said.

“It is scary to have a major, very dangerous section of the Trans Canada Highway with no road rescue on it. It is volunteers and my volunteers are burnt out. I cannot force them to go to calls. We are in a tight spot for sure.”

The ministry spokesperson  said the community remains well served by RCMP, the BC Ambulance, and the local Fire Department, however, road rescue is a specialized service that plays a critical role in public safety response. We are very hopeful an adequate and expedient solution can be found.

Ongoing meetings and discussions are underway, co-ordinated by EMBC and all stakeholders have indicated their willingness to participate in the process of finding a solution.