A CASH-STRAPPED search and rescue team are being forced to work out of a Ford Focus to rescue stranded hill walkers.
Since 2004, dedicated members of the Cheshire Search and Rescue Team have spent hours combing through miles of countryside and trekking up hills to help bring injured and disorientated walkers back to civilisation.
But for the past three weeks the team of 42 volunteers have been struggling to complete their vital missions after their essential rescue van was condemned and scrapped.
Now the team have told The Chronicle that their D-reg car is crippling their rescue attempts, claiming that the police have stopped calling on them despite never failing to respond in seven years.
Team leader of the Cheshire Search and Rescue Team, Jo McClure, said: “Currently we are working out of the back of a Ford Focus. The car is so small that we couldn’t transport the injured victim, we have to carry them to the nearest accessible road side and wait for an ambulance.
“Places like Delamere are so huge and without the van we are not able to get to people quickly. We are always called by the police to help, but all of a sudden it has gone really quiet and they are not calling us any more. It could be that nothing has happened but we do not know if it is because of the vehicle situation.”
Jo described how the Warrington-based volunteers who train on Frodsham and Helsby hills with their two border collie search dogs, Tess and Kim, are struggling to attract the attention of missing walkers who belive it is just a normal car.
“In the past when people have gone missing they have come and found us. But because the car is only marked at the back, now we have not got the visibility any more now that the van has gone.
“The whole team are feeling really low, they are all finding it really hard. We had worked so hard to get that presence and now, without the van, we have lost it all.
“We are near enough invisible now that the van has gone.”
Now the volunteers, who are aged from 18 to 72, have been thrown a lifeline by North East Wales Mountain Rescue, who have offered to sell them their two fully equipped LandRovers.
But to buy the essential vehicles the busy team will have to raise £9,000, which despite raising £2,100 through several sponsored events still seems some way off for the service which relies on donations to survive.
“We are hoping that people will hold a sponsored event for us or a dress down day at work to help us out. We need these vehicles, we need everyone across the North West to help us to raise the money.”
If you can help the team contact Jo McClure on 07811 046422 or to make a donation visit www.cheshire-sarteam. org.