British Columbia

Chilliwack Search and Rescue expecting record number of calls this year

Chilliwack Search and Rescue is seeing a spike in calls to help pluck people off cliffs and out of dangerous water, with 67 calls to the service so far. In an average year, it gets a total of 80 calls.

Service has taken 67 calls so far this year in Fraser Valley, compared to 80 total in an average year

A search and rescue helicopter pilot surveys Yak Peak, near the summit of the Coquihalla Highway, where a climber got into trouble July 31. A Chilliwack SAR crew assisted in the rescue. (Chilliwack Search and Rescue)

Chilliwack Search and Rescue is seeing a spike in calls to help pluck people off cliffs and out of dangerous water, with 67 calls to the service so far.

In an average year, it gets a total of 80 calls.

President and search manager Dave Casey expects the tally will be higher than most years by the end of summer.

"We are just seeing more people out in the wilderness," he said.

Three search-and-rescue groups helped a climber with an injured leg get off a precarious ledge on the face of Yak Peak at the end of July. (Chilliwack Search and Rescue)

'People are just wanting to get out'

The volunteer search and rescue service had its busiest day of the year so far on July 31, with six calls in 10 hours, including a helicopter rescue of a stranded Vedder River swimmer.

"There isn't any one area that we're having any particular spikes in. We are just a good dozen calls above where we were this time last year," said Casey.

He said he originally thought COVID-19 restrictions would make it a quieter year with fewer people travelling to B.C. 

But many camp and recreation sites are full and people are exploring wild spots they've never ventured into before.

"People are just wanting to get out and local people are just willing to explore our area instead of leaving the country, I guess," said Casey.

Casey urges people to be prepared and not to try activities above their ability. For every callout, he says, teams have to prepare with personal protective equipment and assume anybody they're rescuing might have COVID-19, which can complicate rescue efforts.

Chilliwack Search and Rescue says it responds to emergencies within a 1,100-square-kilometre area between the Fraser River and U.S. border, from the Vedder Canal in the west to Chilliwack Lake in the east.

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