Grand Forks Search and Rescue is putting the call out for new volunteers. (Grand Forks Search and Rescue/Facebook)

Grand Forks Search and Rescue looking for volunteers for search, admin roles

GFSAR president Grant Burnard also warned adventurers to plan ahead when exploring in the winter

Grand Forks Search and Rescue (GFSAR) is going into its fortieth year of tromping around the wilderness, seeking, finding and helping lost and injured adventurers, hunters and walk-aways around the Boundary region. Now, as they gear up for another busy time of year – the holiday season – they’re also putting the call out for “ground-pounders” and support staff to join them in the new year to help GFSAR ensure quality coverage with each response.

“The pick-up is about to hit us,” said GFSAR president Grant Burnard in an interview last week.

Through search and rescue’s calendar year, Burnard said, there are normally two “blips” – hunting season and the two-week break that covers Christmas and New Year’s. Over both periods, dramatic weather changes and more free time to be outdoors lead to higher calls.

“Always go out with a plan that you discuss with family or friends,” and know that “things happen,” Burnard advised to anyone venturing too far outside. Even on day hikes, skis or snowshoeing outings, he said, it’s best to be prepared to stay the night somewhere – at the very least having extra layers, food and water can help.

But, Burnard said, more and more, GFSAR calls have shifted from search to rescue, thanks to people carrying communication devices like cellphones, SPOT locators and other GPS technologies.

Just as the nature of the job is transforming, so is GFSAR itself. Forty years in, the group has amassed and upgraded gear and strategies and is now looking to upgrade its team.

Burnard said that GFSAR, which currently counts between 25 and 30 active members and covers territory from Beaverdell to Bridesville and across to the Paulson Bridge, could do with at least a handful more dedicated volunteers ready to answer the call.

While volunteers are expected to attend half of all practices (all of which are held in Grand Forks) and at least one third of all calls, Burnard said that the invitation is open to residents throughout the Boundary. Having volunteers in the west end for calls in Rock Creek can mean quicker response times overall, which can be crucial, particularly during inclement weather situations.

For most calls received by GFSAR, the group’s president said, about a dozen volunteers can be expected to attend – there are no paid positions within the organization. While that can be sufficient for some outings, for things like missing children, Burnard said, “we could probably never have [too many].”

Volunteer roles also extend beyond those tromping around the backcountry. While some volunteers may be motivated by the sense of adventure, the gear, and the training, GFSAR is also seeking support staff to help coordinate searches from the command vehicle – a cube van that is expecting some key upgrades in 2020 – and to help manage inventory, administration and fundraising efforts between calls.

“The support side is just as crucial,” said Burnard.

Anyone interested is invited to reach out to signup@gfsar.ca for details.

The latest piece of administration GFSAR has to manage is a $74,750 grant from the provincial government that will be put towards a new snowmobile, training for volunteers and renovations to the command centre vehicle, including installing heating fixtures for cold-weather operations.

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