What would you do if a family member didn't return after a hunting, fishing or hiking trip? What if your child wandered away as you were camping or huckleberrying? What if a friend floated the river and didn't come back?
Each of these scenarios is a possibility here in Boundary County where outdoor activities are a way of life and a passion for most of the people who live here. Lucky for us, Boundary County Search and Dive Rescue, in conjunction with the Sheriff's Department and the Border Patrol, is available if such an emergency should occur.
Members Of Boundary County Search And Dive Rescue Unit Gather For A Monthly Meeting At The Water Ways Building.
Started by former Sheriff Dave Kramer and Brian Zimmerman in the mid 1980's as Boundary County Dive Unit, Boundary County Search and Dive Rescue has evolved into a complete search and rescue unit that has helped locate many missing people over the years.
According to Unit Commander Don Stolley, Boundary County Search and Dive Rescue consists of 31 dedicated, trained volunteers who are willing to drop everything at a moment's notice to search for those who are missing.
"They are very dedicated. There's a core group that's willing to do anything. If we call, they're there," he said.
Don explained that time is of the essence when searching for missing people. He said that a call must first be made to the Sheriff's Department if a person is suspected as missing, then the Sheriff's Department will call Boundary County Search and Dive to join the search.
Funded by the county at the bare minimum of just $2,000 per year, the organization has been receiving some money from the Craig Wyden funds for the purchase of rescue equipment. To date, Boundary Search and Dive Rescue has two ATVs, two wave runners, two snow mobiles, one rescue-bogin which converts from skis to wheels depending on the season, an inflatable Ice Rescue Ocean Aid fondly called the "Banana Boat," a Chevy crew cab for crew transport and a 20 foot command trailer with a radio, maps, ropes and other necessary rescue equipment. Unfortunately, Don said that the Craig Wyden funds will only last for four more years. Fundraisers, local organizations and grateful people who have been rescued also occasionally contribute money to Boundary Search and Dive Rescue.
The Unit also has two search and rescue dogs that are certified in avalanche rescue, area rescue, cadaver location and air scent rescue. Don is very fond of these dogs because they happen to belong to him and his wife, Edith. Edith's Australian Shepherd, Emily, has found two people.
Don mentioned that Dave Parker flies for Boundary Search and Dive Rescue if an air craft is needed and that an Air Force helicopter also helps occasionally.
One year, Boundary Search and Dive Rescue completed 13 rescues.
"We've had fewer rescues over the last several years," explained Don. "People are getting smarter and more aware plus there are more cell phones and GPS systems in use. We'd rather be called early even if they suspect that a person is even a few hours late. It's hard on us to be called at 1 or 2 in the morning. Even if the search gets cancelled, we'd rather be notified sooner rather than later. One advantage we have in this county is that the terrain is such that if you go downhill, more than likely you will end up at a road. We emphasize to young kids that once they realize they're lost, they should just sit down and wait."
Boundary Search and Dive Rescue is always looking for interested people who would be willing to volunteer for this very necessary organization. Don said the only requirements are that a volunteer must be at least 18 years old, willing to complete the basic training of CPR, First Aid, map and compass navigation and attend a monthly training meeting. The cost to join Boundary Search and Dive Rescue is $12 per year. Volunteers must also be willing to complete 20 hours per year of supplementary rescue training.
Currently, Boundary Search and Dive Rescue is looking to start a horseback search unit to assist with searches in areas inaccessible by ATV.
"I personally think there should be a mil tax to fund Search and Rescue," commented Don. "We need a building real bad. We helped build the Waterways building so they let us use it to store our equipment since there's no way we could sustain a building on our own. On the amount we get, even if we have just two or three searches a year, just the fuel costs alone eat up our budget. We work as a team. We have fun during our training sessions, but when it comes to a search, we're serious."