BC Search and Rescue Association president Chris Kelly says 79 groups that respond to calls have been pushed to the limit during the pandemic. (Black Press Media files)
The Vernon Search and Rescue’s heli-winch team was called to assist in the rescue of two Shuswap backcountry sledders Friday, April 2, 2021. (VSAR photo)

BC Search and Rescue Association president Chris Kelly says 79 groups that respond to calls have been pushed to the limit during the pandemic. (Black Press Media files) The Vernon Search and Rescue’s heli-winch team was called to assist in the rescue of two Shuswap backcountry sledders Friday, April 2, 2021. (VSAR photo)

Calls to search and rescue groups surge in B.C. as COVID-19 pushes people outdoors

Groups have been deployed 1,959 times since last April, 10 people have died in avalanches

British Columbia’s public safety minister is urging backcountry enthusiasts to take safety precautions before heading out after a record number of calls to ground search and rescue groups.

Mike Farnworth says volunteer personnel jump into action in dangerous circumstances and inclement weather to help those in trouble, adding their job has become harder over the past year as more people are exploring the outdoors due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Public Safety Ministry and Emergency Management BC say in a joint release that the search and rescue groups have been deployed 1,959 times since last April and 10 people have died in avalanches.

They say search and rescue crews attended an average of about 1,500 callouts in previous years, more than the rest of Canada combined.

BC Search and Rescue Association president Chris Kelly says 79 groups that respond to calls have been pushed to the limit during the pandemic.

He says COVID-19 has made risky work even more dangerous and everyone venturing into the backcountry should do their part to plan ahead.

“Make sure you’re prepared for where you’re going. Have a plan, have the right gear, know how to use it and take the training,” he said.

Jennifer Rice, the parliamentary secretary for Emergency Preparedness, says even those taking what they think is a short trip should let someone know where they’re going and learn about the terrain and weather beforehand. She also suggests bringing supplies for an unexpected overnight stay.

The province is advising anyone who needs help to call for it immediately and to learn from the resources available on the Avalanche Canada website.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Greenwood streets due for spring cleaning

City crews to start on residential streets Friday, April 16

Barbed wire hangs over a chain-link fence at Grand Forks public works yard at 130 Industrial Dr. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks to increase security following theft, break-ins at city properties

Grand Forks RCMP said break-ins at abandoned homes accounted for majority of recent property crime

The Rock Creek Fall Fair is coming back next September. It's size and scope depends on pandemic constraints, said general manager Lisa Sims. Photo: Facebook — Rock Creek Fall Fair
Rock Creek Fall Fair planners hoping for as big a return as possible

The fair launched 50-50 ticket sales Thursday, April 15

Easterly winds vent smoke from a controlled behind rural Grand Forks’ Spencer Hill Wednesday, April 14. Photo: Darlainea Redlack
Grand Forks’ wildfire operations centre reports successful controlled burn near city

Lead officer James Kastonoff said some smoke will stay in the area through Thursday, April 15

Mayor and council on Monday, April 12, narrowly voted to keep the old Hardy View Lodge shelter open for potentially another year. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks to keep shelter open during housing negotiations with province

The current facility at 2320 78th Ave. will stay open as a COVID-shelter, according to city council’s resolution

Thursday, Feb. 4: RDKB Chief Engineer Darryl Funk hoists a banner commemorating last year’s championship season by the Bantam House Bruins. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Bantam Bruins honoured at hair-raising banner ceremony at Grand Forks’ Jack Goddard Arena

Asst. coach Mike Tollis said he reluctantly gave in to the team’s victory wish that he cut his pony tale

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Most Read