Should the volunteers who put their lives on the line for North Shore Rescue be paid?

That’s one idea being floated as the search and rescue group struggles to keep up with an increasing number of distress calls.

Team leader Mike Danks said if the trend continues then North Shore Rescue’s current funding model, which pays for training and equipment through donations and an annual grant from the province, won’t be sufficient.

“I don’t see it being sustainable if things keep ramping up the way they are,” Danks said. “As things increase it puts a higher burden on volunteers and … their family and their work and their ability to bring money home.”

Last year the group saw a record 139 calls, and this year is currently on track to top that number, he added.

Some hikers on the North Shore said the rescuers should be treated like other first responders, even if it costs tax dollars.

“The federal, provincial, municipal governments, they’re very encouraging of people getting exercise and getting out,” said Pippa Cherniaysky. “People are, and the consequence is that more and more people are going out on the trails.”

Others argued the group should try to be self-sufficient by charging for rescues, a model North Shore Rescue warns would only serve to put hikers and rescuers at risk.

According to the group, when people know they’re going to get charged, they spend more time trying to find their own way home, and sometimes even actively avoid the volunteers who are trying to save them.

“Every single time that’s happened they’ve gone further into danger, they’ve either hurt themselves of they’ve ended up killing themselves, and when we have to go rescue them they’re further into treacherous terrain, which puts us further at risk,” Danks said.

Earlier this year, Emergency Management B.C. gave a one-time funding boost of $10 million to the B.C. Search and Rescue Association, which represents 80 groups across the province, for training, equipment and public education.

EMBC said it hasn't received a proposal for a potential public funding model from North Shore Rescue, but it has received one for a "new support model" from the BCSARA that it's currently reviewing. 

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Nafeesa Karim