Houston Search and Rescue (SAR) is seeking provincial funding for a third year to purchase snowmobiles and safety equipment that are key to winter response capability.
“We haven’t been able to acquire snowmobiles to date,” explained Houston SAR president Andy Muma. “In the winter we do quite a few searches and we’ve had three or four searches where we’ve had to use personal snowmobiles, or we’ve had to call Smithers and other SAR groups that have the equipment.”
“When you apply for funding there are a lot of rules you have to follow, and sometimes you don’t get the full amount you asked for, so we never had enough money to buy two snowmobiles, and buying one snowmobile isn’t worth it,” he continued.
“You try to mix and match the equipment you need. Every year you get a certain amount and you go, ‘Okay, we don’t have enough [funding] this year to get snowmobiles, so let’s get something else.’”
“This is another year where we’re trying again,” he added.
District council has recently issued a letter of support to assist Houston SAR with their grant application.
Acquiring these snowmobiles - which are the last major items to be purchased on SAR’s equipment list - would make them a “fully capable team,” according to Muma.
“We have good water response in the summer now, but if we get these snowmobiles we’ll have a fully capable SAR team that can meet the local needs of Houston - with good water rescue capability and winter response capability.”
Houston SAR averages nine to 12 calls a year. So far in 2018, they’ve responded to nine search and rescues in the Houston area, and have assisted with other searches in the Smithers area.
But Muma said the busiest season is the fall, when SAR teams usually search for hunters and mushroom pickers.
Last fall Houston SAR assisted other groups with one of the largest searches in B.C.’s history – the search for Francis Brown of New Hazelton.
“Our command vehicle was the main centre for running operations of back search, and it was basically used for three weeks,” said Muma.
Houston SAR is now close to finishing construction of their new command centre, which is located behind the district’s municipal office. Planning and fundraising for this new facility took years of hard work, according to Muma.
“We had years of fundraising efforts to get capital funding and we were able to get it last year,” he said.
All of Houston SAR’s work – including administrative, fundraising and search and rescues – is done by a group of 30 volunteers.