Lack of volunteers forces closure of search-and-rescue group in southern B.C. Interior town

The two remaining members of a search-and-rescue team in Keremeos, a town in B.C.’s southern Interior, say they’ve had to shut down operations due to a lack of volunteers.

Rose Koehler and Darrell Taylor, a husband-and-wife team, have been part of the Keremeos SAR since it started in 2009. But they say they haven’t been able to recruit enough people to keep things going.

“Being a search-and-rescue volunteer typically means a significant commitment in time and energy,” Koehler said in a statement sent by the B.C. Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA).

“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.”

Keremeos, home to just under 1,800 people, is about an hour-and-a-half drive south from Kelowna, and a 40-minute drive north from the Oroville-Osoyoos border with the U.S.

The couple said the decision to shut down was “gut-wrenching,” but assured residents of Keremeos and surrounding communities, as well as visitors, that other SAR teams in the region will be ready and available to help as needed.

Search-and-rescue calls in and around Keremeos will now be directed to SAR groups in either Penticton to the north, Oliver-Osoyoos to the east, or Princeton to the west, depending on the location of anyone who is hurt, stranded or lost.

BCSARA said a ground search-and-rescue team can only be sent if a request is made by certain agencies such as the police. 

They said anyone who’s worried about a missing person or requiring search-and-rescue assistance should call 911 to initiate that process as soon as possible.

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

Chris Mushumanski, BCSARA president thanked Koehler and Taylor for their “lengthy service.”

“The dedication these members showed was inspiring,” he said. “We’re grateful for the time they gave and wish them all the best.”

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