Search and Rescue members prepare to head out on Pitt Lake to look for missing boaters.

Tax credit offered for volunteer searchers, firefighters

BC Liberal budget includes credit of up to $150 a year for volunteers who put in at least 200 hours

The BC Liberal government is adding a provincial tax credit to its pre-election budget for volunteer firefighters and search and rescue members, worth up to $150 a year.

Volunteers who put in 200 hours a year for search and rescue, firefighting or both would be eligible for the tax credit, starting this year. Combined with a federal tax credit, volunteers would receive about $600 a year in tax breaks for their efforts.

“These local heroes leave the comfort of home to rush out into often dangerous and unpredictable conditions, in every type of environment, to provide a beacon of hope to both those lost and to the families waiting at home,” said Naomi Yamamoto, minister of state for emergency preparedness, making the announcement in North Vancouver Saturday.

Bob Stevens, president of the Volunteer Firefighters Association of B.C., said the tax credit is welcome recognition for people who in many cases receive no compensation for their effort and personal expense.

“Many small communities in B.C. rely heavily on volunteer firefighters and search and rescue groups to provide protection and assistance in times of need,” Stevens said.

Yamamoto said in an interview the tax credit will cost the province about $1 million a year, in addition to the $5 million a year currently provided for training and materials and $9 million in the current fiscal year to compensate volunteer organizations for fuel, helicopters and other expenses.

The B.C. Search and Rescue Association has 2,500 volunteers in 80 groups in the province. The Volunteer Firefighters Association of B.C. has 177 active volunteer fire departments with about 4,500 volunteer members.

The B.C. government is set to unveil a monument to search and rescue volunteers on the grounds of the B.C. legislature on March 2.