An Open Letter to the People of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region

An Open Letter to the People of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region:

Happy New Year to everyone!

For over a quarter of a century Bethel Search and Rescue has faithfully served the People of the region. Our all-volunteer organization has grown from just a handful of caring individuals to over one hundred registered members.

From our humble grass roots beginnings, we have grown into a highly recognized professionally-oriented group that is constantly striving to serve the region in better ways.

Over the years BSAR has been able, through the support of many businesses and individuals, to acquire a headquarters building, an equipment maintenance shop, a boat, snow machines, ATVs, an ARGO, and many other pieces of equipment that support search, rescue, and recovery missions.

Following one of the core cultural values of our region – sharing – everything that BSAR has been blessed with is used to support SAR efforts throughout the region. This includes not only physical assets but our human resources as well. Our members often leave their families and jobs for extended periods to assist with search, rescue, and recovery missions across the region.

In more recent years BSAR has developed a focus on prevention – working hard in advance to keep travelers safe – so that search and rescue missions are reduced. This is done by aerial and ground surveys of River conditions during freeze up, break up, and adverse weather conditions. Written reports with maps and pictures are widely distributed throughout the region.

Possibly the most important prevention work that BSAR does each year is winter open water marking. Our members have marked hundreds of open holes over the years.

Now with the establishment of legal liquor sales in Bethel, BSAR is feeling a strain on both our members and our equipment.

Historically, many of our SAR missions were alcohol related. Almost all of our body recoveries were.

Long ago BSAR members agreed that we would help anybody – drunk or not they are still human beings to be cared for.

But with a legal liquor store now operating in Bethel, and the potential for another one, the number of alcohol related search and rescue calls has been increasing.

Our recent records are showing that 95% of the calls we get are for assistance to intoxicated travelers from nearby villages. And these calls are increasing.

Many of these calls for help come during the middle of the night. Our members are getting worn out.

We are thankful that to date these calls have all resulted in rescues and not body recoveries. But as the load of calls for assistance to intoxicated travelers continues to increase BSAR is fearful that we will not be able to respond as we have in past years. The outcomes may be entirely different.

Through this letter BSAR is reaching out to the People of the region, especially to those villages close to Bethel, for help.

To everyone in general: Please do not drink while traveling. Do not let others drink and travel.

To the VPSO’s, Search & Rescue Groups, and other caring People of the surrounding villages: when a traveler from your community is intoxicated and in need of assistance – please go help them – don’t let BSAR do it unless it is very close to Bethel.

BSAR is getting tired and we need your help.

Thank you for your consideration.

Bethel Search & Rescue Membership