Most people saved by Kent-Harrison Search and Rescue (KHSAR) say "thank you." Some make a donation to the volunteer service but no one has gone as far as Josh Wolfe did on the weekend.
As a thank you for saving him and his two fishing buddies a month ago, the Vancouver chef brought his catering trailer out to the KHSAR headquarters in Agassiz for a lunch of fried ling cod or sockeye and fries, chicken sandwiches, seafood chowder poutine and more.
"You realize pretty quickly that you've got to give something back," Wolfe told the Times on Saturday as he happily handed out lunches to the thankful volunteers.
Wolfe and his two fishing buddies set out on Oct. 29 for a day's fishing in the Chehalis River delta. They left from the Chehalis hatchery and trudged across several channels of shallow water.
What they didn't realize is that the resulting water from torrential rains that had come down during the day was yet to make it's way into the river.
"We crossed water that was up to our knees," Wolfe said. "By 2 p.m. the water had come up so fast. The water just closed in; there was raging brown water on three sides."
After a brief attempt to return to their vehicle, the three realized they were in trouble.
And while panic is a common response in such a situation, Wolfe's work experience likely helped him out. Thriving while working in high-end restaurants under extreme pressure means always being measured and calm.
"I live in stressful environments," Wolfe said. "But I'm the leader and I have to remind people, it's just dinner. Do the best you can and we will get through."
It was this same measured approach, as well as his careful planning for emergencies, that allowed him to stay calm and do the right thing.
"They were just well-prepared and that's what we like to see," KHSAR search manager Neil Brewer said. "If everyone was like that it would likely cut search-and-rescue responses by 50 per cent."
Wolfe and his friends had lighters, whistles and even flares. But beyond the gear, the best thing they did when they realized they were in trouble was to stay put.
"It was pretty evident that sitting still was the right call," Wolfe said.
"This is one of those rare stories where everybody did everything right," Brewer said.
"They did the right thing," added KHSAR president Marvin Anderson. "They had everything, they were totally prepared."
Once they made the decision to sit still, they called 9-1-1. That call was forwarded to the RCMP who put KHSAR into action.
The fishermen were able to light a fire using a dry sock before dark set in. Wolfe said they
were even able to construct a crude shelter using cedar bark so that one at a time they could lie down if they had to spend the night.
And spend they night they did as a team of nine SAR volunteers trained in swiftwater rescue and wearing drysuits fought through dense bush to get to the location identified by a cellphone. After
four hours they realized they were in the wrong place, some 600 metres away and it was too late to continue.
The following morning, a helicopter was used to locate the men and drop two volunteers to a location nearby. The chopper then guided a jet boat up the debris-filled channels to a location where they could be rescued. In the end, SAR volunteers were utilized from Kent-Harrison, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission and Ridge Meadows.
After a "thank you" and a "sorry," Wolfe said he immediately realized he had to do something to thank the volunteers, some of whom had to miss work to partake in the rescue.
He sent an email as a thank-you and asked if he could make a donation. Brewer found Wolfe's website (www.freshlocalwild.com) and suggested the lunch instead.
Under the menu listed for volunteers on Saturday was a simple message written by Wolfe: "A little thank you for the work you do! We're happy to be able to tell the story and grateful you were there when we needed you!"
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