Lights fade on northwest rescue group

by Derek Cornet

After many years of inactivity, Northern Lights Search and Rescue (NLSR) has officially disbanded.

Meadow Lake resident and NLSR organizer Roy Fillion said it’s unfortunate they’ve decided to call it quits, but it’s been six years since the group was involved in a search.

“What can you do?” Fillion asked. “We’d try to arrange a practice and nobody would show up.”

After a young woman in Melfort went missing in the early 2000s, search and rescue organizations began appearing province-wide. At its peak, NLSR had more than 100 members consisting of Meadow Lake and area residents. Fillion said, in the first few years, they were successful at locating numerous people throughout northwest Saskatchewan.

“About four or five times a year we’d be called out by the RCMP to conduct a search,” he said.

When the group was called for a rescue, Fillion said it was almost always local people. Hunters, fishermen and hikers were the most common people would become lost or trapped and need assistance.  He also noted even the most experienced person could need help at some point.

But, as interest in the group began to wane and people left, it became difficult to meet and organize training. Fillion said members were required to take part in training courses during their holidays, and most people didn’t want to sacrifice that time for NLSR.

“Eventually, we couldn’t do anything because we weren’t trained,” he said. “After a while, the RCMP stopped calling.”

Although the group has been inactive for many years, it still had funds remaining for rescue purposes. Recently, Fillion called the remaining members and asked what they should do with the $1,100 the group still had in the bank. After discussing the issue, they decided Northland Pioneer Lodge would be the best place for the money to go.

“We’re all going to need the lodge at one point, so it made most sense to us to donate the funds to them,” Fillion said.
Meadow Lake RCMP Staff Sgt. Tim Korman said, if there was a group of resident available to help with searches, the detachment would contact them for their services.

“It’s always great to have local people during a search,” Korman said. “They know the area and are aware of the surroundings.”
In regard to the teenagers who went missing in the Meadow Lake Provincial Park two weeks ago, Korman said rescuers wouldn’t have been able to help because those teens didn’t want to be found. However, he said incidents have happened where a local volunteer force could have been deployed.

“If we had access to a trained group, we’d utilize them,” Korman reiterated.

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