B.C. search and rescue team shuts down due to lack of volunteers

A search and rescue service in B.C.’s southern Interior is shutting down due to an inability to recruit new volunteers.

The BC Search and Rescue Association announced Friday that the Keremeos team no longer has enough people to keep running.

Started in 2009, the association says in a statement that the team was down to its last two volunteers, husband and wife duo Rose Koehler and Darrell Taylor, who described the decision as “gut-wrenching.”

The village is situated in the Similkameen Valley between Princeton and Osoyoos, and had a population of 1,608 in 2021, according to census data. The median age among residents is 63.6 years old.

Koehler said this was one of the challenges for recruitment.

“We live in an area with a high number of retired people, and those who are not retired are often very busy with work responsibilities and family life,” said Koehler in the statement. “Being a search and rescue volunteer typically means a significant commitment in time and energy.”

“We loved being part of this group and providing this service to our town, but it was simply impossible to continue,” she added.

Calls from those who need assistance will be handled by teams from Penticton, Oliver/Osoyoos or Princeton – depending on where they originate. Koehler said despite the group winding down operations, help remains available and teams can respond in as few as 10 minutes.

SAR teams are called in by police or other first responders when their specialized assistance is required. In B.C., there are 78 volunteer teams made up of more than 3,000 members, the association says. They are on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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