Rossland Search and Rescue: searching for a home

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
May 6th, 2010

Ironically enough, Rossland Search and Rescue, a volunteer group primarily dedicated to helping bring lost people home, is searching for a home themselves. Since they were established in 1999, the 55-member non-profit society has been meeting in the Rossland Fire Hall while storing their mobile command centre at the city works yard. Currently, they are working to establish a plan that would see them move into a permanent space they could call their own.

“We’ve always been without a home,” explained Graham Jones . “What we’re trying to do is find a facility that we can store our equipment and do our training in, which is an ongoing thing that we do to keep our members qualified to the highest levels we can and [to] entice and invite new members into our group.”

Ideally the group would like a facility that can store their mobile command centre (which is the only one of its kind in the West Kootenay) indoors along with much of their other search and rescue equipment which currently does not have a single location for storage and easy access. Such a facility would ideally also have a large hall for training and to act as a muster and debrief station during rescue events , additional garage space for potential future ATV’s or other search vehicles and kitchen/ office facilities. All options are being looked at currently and could include a new build on private or city owned property or perhaps utilizing an existing building. By way of comparison, the Castlegar Search and Rescue group has, in recent years, been able to make use of the former fire hall in Genelle, re-using an older building and saving the cost of constructing a new structure.

The plan is still in the early going as the group establishes what funding might be available, what groups they may be able to cooperate with and what options for housing the group might be out there. They are first looking to the City of Rossland for a letter of support to assist them in their grant and funding applications. The group will not be coming to the city for funding support, however, and will not be requesting or using local tax dollars for their project.

“We’re asking the city if they will support us in our efforts to try and find a home, basically,” added Jones.

The group hopes funding will come from the provincial government through BC Gaming Commission grants. That funding source would include amounts for construction, development and equipping of the facility.

At the regular meeting of city council on April 26th SAR presented a letter and request to council for a non-binding expression of interest from the City of Rossland with respect to a long term lease at a nominal lease rate on a tract of land within, or close to, the city.

City staff presented four possible options for council to consider. The first option would be to transfer a piece of city owned property on Third Avenue across from the Emcon lot between Washington and Spokane Streets to the SAR on a long-term lease. The second option would involve a property in the Lions Park Campground Area. The downside of this option is that there are no city services currently connected to the property, and hooking the land up would involve extra expense. Option three includes two possible locations near the Rossland Museum, This site already has ample parking and would provide a central location with minimal nearby residential concerns. Option four would be to not designate any location to the group.

City staff recommended the first option, which council is currently considering. Council generally responds within two weeks, in this case most likely at their next meeting on May 10th.

Following a path similar to the proposed Neighborhoods of Learning concept for Rossland schools, the SAR is open to and looking for other potential groups and organizations in town that may be able to benefit from a shared facility. Should a location come together for the group, they are looking into other possible options including hosting training programs for the public, possible first-aid, back country travel or avalanche safety type courses in the building. Currently SAR’s training and education programs include an annual avalanche safety and education day at Red Mountain as well as the beacon basin practice area at Red that is available at no charge to anyone who wishes to brush up on their transceiver skills.

“I’m hopeful that within a month or so down the road we’ll have more knowledge as to where we are going and how we‘ll do it and how we might cooperate with the city so that we can bring this thing to a good conclusion,” concluded Jones.

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