When a trio of fishermen found themselves in “dire straits,” lost up the swollen Chehalis River and clinging to a small patch of high ground back in October, they immediately turned their thoughts to survival.
They had been stranded, and then disoriented, earlier in the day when a flash rain storm filled the boggy area with chest deep water.
Their first concern was attempting to stay safe and dry, if not warm, throughout the night.
They did that by lighting a fire using one of the many lighters they brought along, one of their only dry socks, and a fishing license. They kept it smoldering by adding whatever wood and foliage they could find, but the flames weren’t big enough to produce heat to dry their bodies.
They called for help, with the minimal power and cell phone reception they had.
They took turns sleeping and keeping guard. They listened for rescuers, and did hear far off shouts of Search and Rescue, along with whistles and the whop-whop-whop of a helicopter. They attempted to make contact but as day turned to dusk, and then to the darkness of night, the six-hour search was called off.
“They’ll come back for us tomorrow, right?” one of the men, Adam, thought to himself.
This story began when the men hiked in earlier that morning. They only got in about 20 minutes of fishing before the rain started. It came down for just under 10 minutes, they said, but it was enough to force them to higher ground.
They made the call at about 2 p.m., to a friend in Vancouver who has a fishing supply store.
They found a 20′ by 20′ high spot, and made their camp.
In the morning, they immediately set out to build that fire bigger and better. Within a few hours, SAR members had located the camp. A helicopter was used to locate the fishermen and drop two SAR volunteers to a location close to them. The helicopter then guided a jet boat up narrow, debris-filled channels to a location where the fishermen could be safely guided to. The jet boat was then able to evacuate the subjects. Meanwhile a ground team was also en-route in case the boat rescue failed.
Shortly after they were rescued, the men were on their way. And that’s normally where these stories end. Those who get lost find their way home and all is well. Sometimes the SAR volunteers will get a thank you card.
Other times they’ve been surprised to receive cash donations.
But this Saturday, the Agassiz and Chilliwack Search and Rescue volunteers involved with the rescue, along with a handful of emergency workers, were treated to a free lunch.
One of those fishermen turned out to be Josh Wolfe, a chef and owner of Fresh, Local, Wild, a catering truck that’s normally parked at Hastings and Burrard in Vancouver.
It only took a few moments for Wolfe to realize he wanted to pay the favour back to those who rescued him and his friends. He initially wanted to make a cash donation, but when it was revealed he had a mobile restaurant the plans were set into motion for a lunch event.
“It was interesting to actually get to chat with them for a little while,” said Chilliwack SAR volunteer Dan McAuliffe. “I was in the helicopter guiding the jet boat, so I didn’t get to meet them. You normally spend hours on a rescue, then you rescue them, then they’re gone.”
He said many people don’t realize the danger on the Chehalis River and others in the region.
“They get surprised,” he said. “When it really rains heavy like that, the river comes right up.”
McAuliffe has been a SAR volunteer for 35 years. It’s nice to be acknowledged for the time spent and the dangerous situations they come into.
“It’s nice to know they understand what we do,” he said.