Wells Gray Search and Rescue (WGSAR) held a grand opening and open house to show off its new facility last weekend.
“It’s great; it’s been many years in the planning, this building, and to finally have a building of this size and quality is just fantastic,” said Gy Ovenden, member of WGSAR.
“The old building was pretty small and pretty old; if we wanted to train we had to move all the furniture to have enough space, so this is fantastic because we have all the space we need.”
Other benefits to the new building include more storage space, which helps members keep equipment better sorted, as well as separate offices for management staff.
“Particularly, at the beginning of a search and rescue call out, lots of people are here, so it’s great the managers have a separate room where they can sit and plan with the computers while everyone else it out here milling around,” Ovenden noted.
“It allows us to get organized and ready to move out on our task much faster.”
He added it’s taken a great deal of work over a few years from many team members to acquire the new building, as well as generous funding and support from places like the B.C. government and B.C. Search and Rescue Association.
Local businesses, societies, and individuals were also thanked during a speech Ovenden delivered at the event.
“There are too many to list, but this building is just the latest of many examples of how this community has worked together to benefit everyone,” he said.
“To all of you – some of whom are here today – thank you.”
Long time members of WGSAR were also honoured at the event, including Kevin Deckert, who received a service pin for 35 years with the team.
During the presentation, it was said Deckert, like many members of WGSAR, has been motivated by the desire to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
He moved to the North Thompson Valley in 1978 and spent his own holiday time and money for training since 1985.
Deckert’s qualifications include amateur radio emergency coordinator, first aid, journeyman tracker with Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services, search and rescue manager, tracker and communications with WGAR, Clearwater and District Highway Rescue responder, and CN Rail foreman.
“Kevin has walked away from family festivities, headed out in blizzards and searing heat; like the many other volunteers that we depend on in the North Thompson Valley, he’s answered the phone or radio at all hours, not knowing what he will find,” said Ovenden,
“And being located in Avola, there have been many times when he has the first person on the scene of an incident and the first on the radio providing communication support—Kevin, you truly deserve our thanks and congratulations on 35 years of volunteer service with SAR.”
Les Sakals also received recognition for 35 years of service with the group, as well as Public Safety Lifeline Volunteer of the Year.
Sakals joined search and rescue in the mid-80s and has been a supporter ever since; and Ovenden said his desire to improve his bush skills and help others appealed to him, as well as the opportunity to work with people of a similar mindset.
“Since the beginning of his SAR career he was the treasurer, he remembers reporting bank balances fewer than $5, and operating with little to no equipment. Times have changed dramatically in the last 12 years, and the SAR team now has vehicles, equipment, a new building and most importantly training that prepares them to deal with many tasks,” said Ovenden.
“Much of Les’ life over the last 20 years has been centered on search and rescue and he can honestly say that it has been very satisfying, and he has truly enjoyed it.”
He added WGSAR is also proud that Sakals was one of six Public Safety Lifeline volunteers recognized for their exceptional contributions to emergency and disaster response throughout the province as part of National Volunteer Week, 2019.