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Coquitlam Search and Rescue needs a new home for its gear

The volunteer-run group is set to apply for a Spirit of Coquitlam grant worth $35,000 for the new purpose-built trailer.

A Coquitlam volunteer-run organization that saves lives is asking the city to help pay for part of a new home for its rescue gear.

On Monday (July 31), the president of Coquitlam Search and Rescue (SAR) told council-in-committee that it would soon be applying for a Spirit of Coquitlam grant for $35,000 for a new purpose-built trailer to store its equipment and tools.

Helena Michelis said the climate-controlled trailer will measure 10' x 24' and can be used as a remote command in the future.

The 60-member group has already secured $40,000 through a B.C. gaming grant for the new centre, which will replace the trailer that SAR currently uses on the No. 1 firehall grounds in the City Centre neighbourhood.

Michelis said the organization is looking for suitable land in the area to base its operations permanently as the fire hall and training zone are expanding to meet the growing population demand and needs its full site — not a shared space.

According to SAR's annual report, 2022 was another busy year for the team with 58 incidents, as well as participation in 267 training exercises, scenarios and community events that resulted in 15,695 volunteer hours.

And this year looks to be even busier, Michelis said: To date, the group has responded to 32 incidents and offered 9,358 volunteer hours.

Last year was also the team's 50th anniversary and it celebrated with a community open house at Lafarge Lake — showing the group's fleet and skills — plus an Adventure Skills Challenge competition and a team and alumni dinner.

Michelis said SAR also invited a dozen new volunteers last year; they will graduate by the fall of 2024.

In addition, this fall, the team's new search dog, Otto, is expected to be assessed after a two-year RCMP process for validation.

Also new to the crew is the new hoist capability for the Helicopter External Transport System (HETS), providing faster response than a fixed line and allowing the team to fly straight to a hospital, if the subject is seriously injured.

Last February, the team also updated its Strategic Plan to fine-tune its short-term goals, which include finding a new home.

Coun. Matt Djonlic called Coquitlam Search and Rescue an "indispensable service" to the community.

"The word 'appreciate' doesn't seem strong enough," added Coun. Teri Towner, whose cousin was recovered by northern B.C. Search and Rescue volunteers while hiking several years ago, adding, "It's not always a happy outcome."

Mayor Richard Stewart also cited a recent case of an elderly missing woman on Burke Mountain and credited the Coquitlam team for helping to find her. He noted the team’s 51-year legacy and dedication to serving Tri-Cities residents.

To learn more about Coquitlam Search and Rescue or to donate, you can visit the organization's website.