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Number of backcountry rescues spikes in BC, volunteer groups exhausted

Last Updated Sep 7, 2017 at 8:56 pm PDT

Undated file photo shows North Shore Rescue team. (Photo via Facebook: North Shore Rescue)
Summary

Calls for North Shore Rescue have gone up 30 per cent since 2014

BCSARA says ground rescues are at reaching a high in the province

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As we approach the weekend and very soon — winter — there are concerns about the number of calls being handled by local search and rescue groups.

New statistics released from the BC Search and Rescue Association show 2016-2017 had the most ground rescues ever. A breakdown from the early 1990s to today shows the number of people who get lost or stuck continues to climb and it’s taking a toll on volunteer crews province-wide.

North Shore Rescue Team Leader Mike Danks says the numbers are also up because more people are heading to local mountains. “I think when you really break it down, we’re getting a lot more people in the backcountry. We’re getting a lot of inexperienced people that are seeing social media posts that are showing beautiful hikes. We’re getting people who are going out there and attempting these hikes without doing any research and not planning or preparing for what about they’re about to endure.”

He feels one way to get the numbers down is by pushing both prevention and educational campaigns, but admits they’ve been doing that for a while and obviously people aren’t getting the message.

Danks says, overall, this is tapping their resources. “We’re all volunteers and we’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that we’re ready for these rescues and we’re going to be putting some significant resources into our education and that’s going to be one of the focuses in the near future.”

Calls specifically handled by NSR have gone up 30 per cent since 2014. “I think you’re getting people who are just very naive to the dangers of how quickly you can be very remote. Locally, here on the North Shore mountains just how steep the terrain is [and] how quickly the weather can change. And what fitness levels you need to have to be doing these hikes.”

Danks says three years ago they were handling, on average, about 90 to 100 calls and now it’s more like 130 to 139 calls.