Port Alberni escaped flooding that forced dozens of people on the east coast of Vancouver Island from their homes on Nov. 15, but Alberni Valley Rescue Squad volunteers were in the thick of rescue operations.
Five members from the AVRS, including four from the swiftwater rescue team, were tasked to help Arrowsmith Search and Rescue (SAR) evacuate people from an RV park in Parksville after Martindale Road flooded. The swiftwater team was called out due to the technical nature of the search, said AVRS director Richard Johns, including fast-moving water and hazardous conditions like debris or fuel in the water.
Search and rescue volunteers launched inflatable boats to transport people who were stranded in the high waters, and also worked with Sunwest Helicopters to help airlift people to safety. Arrowsmith SAR deployed 23 members.
Some AVRS members had just completed their annual hover training last weekend with Ascent Helicopters. Johns said because Port Alberni has a small contingent of SAR volunteers many of them are trained in multiple disciplines. “Alberni Valley Rescue Squad is a smaller team. The one advantage we have is our members are highly cross-trained,” he said. For example, someone may have both swiftwater and helicopter hover exit training.
“It’s one thing that makes us very quick to respond.”
Ground search and rescue teams from around the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley have worked for several days assisting officials with evacuations, especially around Abbotsford. Search and rescue teams from around the province have been called upon to help in other communities.
Johns said Alberni Valley volunteers are often called on for mutual aid tasks in the Lower Mainland. “We are prepared to send members over there if we’re required, but we haven’t been requested yet.”
British Columbia Search and Rescue Association president Chris Mushumanski posted on the BCSARA Facebook page that the province is fortunate to have such dedicated volunteers. There were 416 BCSAR volunteers that responded to 25 tasks between Nov. 8–14—before the major flooding events.
“The selfless service and dedication are a true testament as to the heart of the GSAR community, all while working safely and compassionately with so many in need. Thank you does not come close to expressing our gratitude.”