North Shore Rescue has received an expensive new tool for Christmas that will help the volunteer search group find lost hikers starting in the New Year. 

The $250,000 high-tech camera uses forward-looking infrared radiometer, or FLIR, technology to sense heat. The donation came courtesy of Port Metro Vancouver. 

"That's going to be really helpful for us, especially in tree canopy when [lost hikers] are unresponsive and not able to come to the open," said Doug Pope, search manager with NSR. 

The unit was once mounted to a port vessel, but NSR said it's now been retrofitted for aerial use. Pope said the camera is the only one of its kind being used for search and rescue purposes in the province. 

The NSR team tested the FLIR camera last week from a Talon helicopter. The group said further training and fine tuning of the equipment will be required before it's fully operational in January. 

Pope said the camera will be shared with other rescue groups across the province.

Busiest year on record

News of the donation came at the end of a year in which NSR received 138 calls, much higher than the average of 90 it typically gets annually. 

"It's our busiest year in 50 years, which is a lot for a volunteer group," said Pope. "It's been a strain on our team."

Most recently, NSR warned outdoor enthusiasts of all levels to stay out of the backcountry for the time being after an avalanche warning was issued for the North Shore.

With files from Brenna Rose