It has been one of the busiest years on record for the South Columbia Search and Rescue unit.
With 14 major rescues and recoveries coming into the Greater Trail-based unit this year, all aspects of the 34-man team have been tested, including the brand new canine unit.
South Columbia president Ron Medland said there have been nearly double the normal amount of calls this year for rescue services, and the severity of the calls has intensified.
Already the number of calls have exceeded what would be an average year, around 10 calls.
Medland said the call volume and intensity rivals 2010 when the water was also high.
“Again, it was high water … and it was people not being careful,” he said. “High water has played a huge role.”
Michelle Huber and Janine Issel and their dogs were in Johnsons Landing during the search for people trapped in the massive landslide that took place three weeks ago.
“It was a great opportunity to put them to the test but it was pretty scary walking around on that slide,” he said.
Every major news story of note relating the environment in the West Kootenay has involved parts of the South Columbia unit.
In June they had the swift water rescue team in Crawford Bay. Local officials were worried about a dyke breaking and flooding out a campsite when water began to rise in the area.
Prior to that the same team was called in for a recovery of a man who died in the raging waters of Pass Creek.
Instead, the members ended up evacuating several families from the Slocan Valley West Road when the nearby Slocan River threatened their homes.
Two weeks ago South Columbia members were part of a medical rescue up on a trail near Rossland when a 67-year-old woman slipped and broke her ankle after she caught it between two rocks.
One week ago the swift water rescue team and rope technicians were in Christina Lake, doing a recovery of a lady who had drowned in the Kettle River. In afternoon they searched the river from campground to the border looking for a man who was still missing. They returned again on Saturday to continue the search.
Medland said the team does not turn down a request for help. Each call is an opportunity to work on the skill set the unit is mastering, using a live scenario.
“You can’t always simulate all situations,” he said. “This is the real stuff and this is where they do the learning.”
The South Columbia unit covers from the Columbia River over to Salmo, across to Genelle and down to the U.S. border.