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Calls to Coquitlam SAR dropped 22% in 2022 — a welcomed stat, president says

Helena Michelis explained the organization was able to focus on recruitment and bring in more volunteers in the extended time away from the field.
Coquitlam Search and Rescue (SAR) crews used its helicopter 10 times to perform extractions in 2022, including the first use of its heli-wench hoist.

For a second straight year, Coquitlam Search and Rescue (SAR) experienced a decrease in calls for service.

The organization's golden season saw volunteers respond to a total of 58 calls — a drop of 22 per cent compared to 74 in 2021, and 32 per cent from 85 in 2020.

President Helena Michelis told the Tri-City News this is considered a "more normal" intake for Coquitlam SAR.

She said the extra time turned out to be very helpful in giving the non-profit opportunities to add more members.

"The reduction in calls in 2022 was welcome and allowed us to focus on our recruitment of 12 new field members in training and celebrating our 50 years of service in the community," Michelis remarked.

"We'd like to thank the community for their ongoing support of Coquitlam SAR."

Volunteers were able to utilize several forms of rescue last year, including nearly two dozen by water and air.

Back in early July, Coquitlam SAR members were even able to use a new piece of equipment known as a "heli-wench" to bring an injured hiker to safety from Widgeon Falls.

The team has conducted special helicopter rescues for a decade, but it had been using a fixed line before the hoist mechanism was added to the fold in June 2022.

"This rescue tool training has been advocated for well over a year and we got approval to proceed earlier this year," SAR manager Al Hurley said in an earlier interview with the Tri-City News.

"We get more than a dozen calls on average for helicopter rescue, so it will depend on the terrain, time of day and how remote the rescue site is."

As well, it appears most Tri-Cities backcountry hikers adventurers were better prepared for Widgeon Falls in comparison to other popular recreation areas.

Michelis said Buntzen Lake and its trails continued to be a "hot spot" for 2022 calls, and was "on par" with other regional routes around Eagle Mountain and Pinecone Burke Provincial Park.

"There will always be newcomers to the outdoor community who are unsure how to best prepare for their outing, or who overestimate their abilities," she added, noting the best way to avoid unsafe hiking situations is to never go alone. 

"We encourage budding outdoor enthusiasts to visit our SAR prevention partners, AdventureSmart [] for the latest advice and planning tools for any type of outdoor adventure." 

For more information on trip planning, especially for hiking, you're encouraged to visit Coquitlam SAR's website.