A long-awaited training centre for marine search and rescue volunteers from across B.C. is on track to open this spring near Victoria.
The Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue is a volunteer organization with nearly 1,200 members. It assists the Canadian Coast Guard and responds to a third of the marine emergencies on the B.C. coast.
The organization has been using borrowed space at the Canadian Coast Guard base in Victoria for training, but a dedicated facility — complete with an updated Fast Rescue Craft Simulator to provide realistic scenarios — will open this spring in East Sooke.
"Safety is our number one concern because our people tend to go out when everybody else is staying back at the dock," said Rob Duffus, RCM-SAR director of marketing and communications.
The new facility could also help raise the profile of the organization, Duffus said, adding some people question why volunteers are involved in marine rescues.
"Obviously there are volunteer firefighters all over the province and nobody gives a second thought to the quality of service they provide," he said.
"We are very proud of the service we provide to the public."
The new facility in East Sooke could open as soon as April. There are future plans to add a dock and accommodations to the site.
The centre will provide training to volunteers from the RCM-SAR stations located in more than 40 communities on the West Coast and in the B.C. Interior.
RCM-SAR receives some funding from the Canadian Coast Guard, but relied largely on donations to build the new training centre.