The CSRD has expressed concerns to the B.C. government regarding gaps in the provision of road rescue services in rural areas in the region and throughout the province. (File photo)

The CSRD has expressed concerns to the B.C. government regarding gaps in the provision of road rescue services in rural areas in the region and throughout the province. (File photo)

Road rescue service concerns raised by Columbia Shuswap Regional District

Study suggests volunteer rescue societies struggling with financial constraints, recruitment

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District is awaiting word from the province regarding a new delivery model for road rescue services.

Back in January, regional district chair Kevin Flynn submitted a letter to the province noting significant gaps and challenges that exist for road/highway rescue services in rural areas.

Flynn noted the CSRD did a study in 2017 to determine where issues exist in road rescue coverage within the region. It identified a number of areas where coverage is either non-existent, or where response times were not reasonable.

The study also determined the delivery of road rescue through societies is becoming unsustainable due to issues around volunteer recruitment and retention, as well as financial constraints. Flynn noted that in recent years, the CSRD has seen the dissolution of both the Falkland Westwold Rescue Society and the road rescue service provided along the Trans-Canada by the Field Fire Department.

Flynn said the Town of Golden agreed to provide road rescue services to the Alberta border until a more appropriate long-term solution is identified. However, he said compensation rates provided by Emergency Management BC have been far less than the actual costs to deliver the service.

Flynn mentioned a study the Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC and the Office of the Fire Commission (OFC) were conducting in 2017 to determine a new provincial delivery model for road rescue services.

Read more: Columbia Shuswap Regional District staff to investigate road rescue

Read more: Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

“The CSRD board is concerned that the delay in the release of the report is compromising the safety of motoring traffic along provincial highways,” said Flynn.

Flynn’s letter was shared with the board at its May 20 meeting, along with a Feb. 25 response by Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. In his reply, Farnworth confirmed a review of governance and funding for out-of-jurisdiction road rescue was nearing completion and that recommendations would soon be made to “better meet the requirements of road rescue service providers.” Farnworth encouraged the CSRD to share its study with the OFC.

In a statement to the Observer, the Eagle Valley Rescue Society said concerns raised by the CSRD regarding volunteer numbers, financial struggles and the mental health of members are important items to be taken into consideration, and “managing those items has been a priority for the senior leadership of the EVRS as well as their board of directors.”

The EVRS mentioned it does have stable membership numbers, active recruitment and the support of communities in its service area.

“The mental well-being of our crew is an incredibly important topic, and as such we have implemented multiple layers of support to our crew from peer debriefings to group sessions,” stated the EVRS, adding its volunteers are humble for the support they receive and honoured to provide road rescue services in the area.
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