North Shore Rescue has the busiest year ever, by far
North Shore Rescue was called 226 times in 2021, breaking the previous annual record of 151 set last year.
The team of all-volunteer professionals has set records in five of the past seven years, but this is by far the biggest increase in a single year.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” said team leader Mike Danks. “With COVID, there are an awful lot of people going out in the backcountry – a lot of people doing it safely, but there will always be accidents. And that’s why we have a team.
Such high call volumes would once have overwhelmed volunteers, but in recent years they have shifted to using smaller ground crews and training new search managers and specialized rescue technicians to help share the workload.
“We created that capacity and we saw new leaders emerge,” said Danks, adding that morale has never been higher. “I think we are good.”
Another major difference was Talon Helicopters’ new Dolphin helicopter, which entered service at the end of 2020. Unlike the familiar yellow rescue helicopters, the Dauphin is equipped with a winch, making it easier for rescuers and patients to get in. air transport in wooded land. And pilots and researchers can fly using night vision capabilities, which has reduced the number of overnight stays in the backcountry. In 2021, they logged 154 hours with night vision goggles.
“[It] has been a game changer, ”Danks said.
The Dolphin also made them popular with other volunteer search and rescue teams, with 47 mutual aid calls from as far away as North Vancouver Island and Kelowna.
Danks said he would never consider turning down a request for help from another team. When the town of Merritt and the Fraser Valley flooded in November, the helicopter team safely evacuated dozens of stranded seniors, families and pets.
“We were constantly pushing and saying, ‘Hey, we’re available. We can go. Please put us in it. And when we were finally able to go out there and help, it was a proud moment for all of us and for Talon as well, ”he said. “It was an experience I will never forget.”
The team added seven new recruits in 2021 – nine if you include Neiko and Dreki, two dogs accredited for search and rescue in July. The team’s three dogs spent a combined 101 hours in the field in 2021.
And North Shore Rescue has never been so crowded with medical professionals, which means rescue subjects receive the best possible care in the field, Danks said.
In 2021, three searches resulted in deaths: a snowshoer who went missing overnight off House Sound Crest Trail in January, a hiker who fell when he separated from a friend in the regional park of Lynn Headwaters in May and a man who suffered a medical emergency just steps from the Grouse Mountain parking lot during the June thermal dome.
While Danks said he was proud of the way 2021 has unfolded for its members, the year ended on a sad note. Karl Winter, one of the three founding members of North Shore Rescue, died on December 31 at the age of 82.
Winter served North Shore Rescue for 57 years. When he no longer went out into the bush for lost or injured hikers, he remained active for the team on construction and maintenance projects, administrative work, public events, fundraising and mentoring new ones. members, Danks said.
“Karl was just a legendary man. It was a mountain of men, ”he said. “He wouldn’t look for any credit. He was incredibly strong. He was patient with everyone.
In 2022, the team hopes to begin rebuilding its Capilano Gate search and rescue base, but Danks said their top priority for the year will be lobbying the province to allow it to use the capabilities of lifting of the Dolphin after dark. They have all the necessary federal approvals, but the province has been stubbornly approving it, Danks said.
“We have this amazing tool but… we are not allowed to use it. Like, there’s a restriction on this plane that doesn’t need to be there, ”he said. “We know this will make a huge difference not only to the safety of our rescuers, but also to the safety of the public we serve. It just drastically reduces the number of people we have to field overnight on technical terrain. “
From the general public in 2022, all Danks asks for is their continued support and willingness to share a trail safety education that helps ensure everyone gets in and out of the mountains without needing help. from North Shore Rescue.
“We are so lucky. We have incredible support from our community, ”he said.