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Whistler Search and Rescue receives $72K in provincial funding

Money towards training and equipment represents about 20% of WSAR’s costs this year
N-WSAR Funding 29.24 FILE PHOTO
Roughly $72,000 in provincial funding to the Whistler Search and Rescue Society this year will go towards training and new equipment—but only represents about a fifth of the organization’s annual costs.

The province has handed out funding for the year to search-and-rescue crews across the province, including the Whistler Search and Rescue Society (WSAR), money that will go towards training and new equipment.

In all, $5,961,000 was disbursed for 2022, and $4,918,750 of that was issued directly to ground search-and-rescue organizations across the province. The remainder is used to fund the BC Search and Rescue Association (BC SARA), which represents more than 3,000 SAR members, in its daily operations, which also includes prevention and critical incident stress management programs.

“This is our first year to receive sustainable provincial funding and we thank the Province for its support,” a release last week from BC SARA read. “This funding is a unique agreement in Canada and a first for B.C.”

Approximately $72,000 in funding was directed to the team in Whistler, which will use the money to train members and acquire specialty technical rescue gear, said WSAR manager Brad Sills.

This year’s money represents a 17-per-cent drop in provincial funding from 2021, when the Whistler team received roughly $87,000 from Victoria, and only covers about a fifth of WSAR’s annual costs this year.

“I think it’s important that people in the valley understand that the money that the government funds through this program is just slightly above 20 per cent what it costs to run the team, so the rest is still fundraising,” Sills explained.

With the likely addition of 14 new full-fledged members in 2022 after last year’s membership drive—its first since 2014—WSAR has some extra costs this year it wouldn’t normally have to shoulder. Once new members pass their one-year probationary period and are voted onto the team, Sills said it costs about $7,500 to get each new volunteer kitted with the appropriate gear.

“It’s a fair chunk of money that we don’t normally have to deal with,” Sills said. “But thankfully we’ve been squirrelling money away for so long now.”