New Brunswick

Charlotte County search and rescue group attempts revival

Charlotte County's volunteer fire departments are helping to revive the local ground search and rescue group.

York Sunbury search team stages successful fundraiser with annual sugarbush breakfasts

Charlotte County's volunteer fire departments are helping to revive the local ground search and rescue group.

The group was disbanded almost two year ago.

Since then, when police have needed help from searchers, they've called on the Fredericton area's York Sunbury Search and Rescue organization.

Members of the River Valley Ground Search and Rescue in Saint John helped police search near the Courtney Bay causeway for a gun used in a murder in 2012. (CBC)
Jim Brown, the chief of the volunteer fire department in Oak Bay, says while that effort it appreciated, it would be better to have a local group.

"They were more than willing to come down and they're like the firemen they give where they can give," said Brown. "It's great for them to be able to come down and do that and help us out. Hopefully we're going to be able to get our own team up."

The Oak Bay fire department has a new rescue truck and an all-terrain Argo that can be used to transport an injured person out of the woods. However, Brown says what's missing are local trained volunteer searchers to find a lost person.

"We can't strip our own department to go and do that and leave our own area uncovered," said Brown.

At the first organizational meeting last week, 23 potential search and rescue volunteers turned up.

Another meeting is scheduled for April 2 at the Oak Bay Fire Hall.

Brown says a search and rescue team needs volunteers for a variety to tasks.

"You don't necessarily have to be the person traipsing through the woods," he said. "There's all kinds of jobs for a person to do on a ground search and rescue."

The Saint John area's River Valley Ground Search and Rescue group is also going through a rebuilding phase.

The York Sunbury search and rescue squad has about 130 volunteers.

Volunteer Ian Walsh says after participating in his first search, he knew he was in it for the long haul.

"It was a missing two year old child and she was found," he said. "And I remember driving in the van, back to Fredericton afterwards, I was hooked."

One of the challenges for the volunteer groups is raising money and funding. The York Sunbury group raised more than $10,000 with its annual sugarbush breakfasts at King's Landing this year.

The group has been staging the breakfasts for 24 years.

They money raised through the breakfasts covers about 85 per cent of the group's budget and is used to fund searches, new equipment and volunteer training.

"The reason we put a lot in training is because statistically, 50 per cent of  lost persons will die within 24 hours of being lost," said Walsh. "When we arrive on a search site, we need to be able to hit the ground running."