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Lower Mainland search and rescue crews struggle amid smoky skies

Last Updated Sep 13, 2020 at 4:57 pm PST

(Courtesy Facebook/NorthShoreRescue)

Rescue crews say smoky conditions are dangerous for hikers and crews, as helicopters can be grounded

Crews in Coquitlam and on the North Shore are urging people to stay indoors to keep themselves and crews safe

COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) — Search and rescue crews are warning people to stay off the trails and out of the backcountry amid smoky conditions that are making outdoor activities and rescues more dangerous.

An Air Quality Advisory remains in effect for Metro Vancouver Sunday, and people are being urged to stay indoors.

Michael Coyle with Coquitlam Search and Rescue says helicopters have been grounded, meaning teams have to hike in and out to perform strenuous stretcher rescues.

“The helicopters have very particular rules around which they can fly, they need to be able to see a certain distance,” he says.

“When it’s cloudy we can’t fly because the helicopter pilot needs to be able to see the horizon to be able to keep the helicopter level, so whether it’s cloud or smoke it basically has the same effect.”

A chopper was able to fly to the site of a rescue Sunday to drop off volunteer rescuers, but an injured hiker could not be taken out by air.

“The real difference today is the people carrying the stretcher are working really hard in smoky conditions breathing in this stuff,” Coyle says.

“We’ve had a relatively quiet weekend this weekend and we’re glad for it.”

Meantime on the North Shore, rescue crews have started wearing N95 masks to protect themselves.

“We’re really urging people to stay indoors, it’s not healthy to be outside right now exerting yourself and if you are in the mountains and do require a rescue you’re putting our members at risk,” says Mike Danks with North Shore Rescue.

The two subjects and NSR crews are now safely out of the field. The subjects were part of a group of 6 that were a…

Posted by North Shore Rescue on Saturday, September 12, 2020

The hazardous, hazy skies can also be disorienting.

Saturday, North Shore Rescue responded to hikers stranded on Mount Seymour.

“They had no sense of direction just because visibility was so low. It’s certainly not ideal conditions and we really just urge people to stay indoors at this time. Once the weather improves, the smoke conditions improve we can get back to normal.”

With files from Kareem Gouda and Paul James