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Documentary series goes behind the headlines with North Shore Rescue

Hundreds of hours of training. Family dinners left at a moment’s notice. Elation — and heartbreak.

A new documentary series is taking viewers behind the nightly news headlines and into the trials and tribulations of one of Canada’s busiest volunteer search-and-rescue teams.

Search and Rescue: North Shore is heading into the third week of its five part look at the North Shore Rescue team this week.

The team serves the North Shore mountains, adjacent to Metro Vancouver and a popular recreation destination for thousands of people annually. In recent years they’ve repeatedly broken records for call-outs, while dedicating large chunks of time to educating the public and fundraising.

Director Grant Baldwin cinematographer Ian Christie spent a year with the team, responding to every call and capturing the huge amount of time they spend preparing for them.

“In the beginning it was a little rough. People weren’t super keen on having a camera on everything. But eventually (they) warmed up,” Baldwin told Global News Morning, Saturday.

“It’s very immersive, people say, when they watch it. They feel like they’re on the call with them.”

Most British Columbians only see the end result of rescues: helicopters landing, hikers being walked to safety, search managers delivering updates.

In reality, the all volunteer team commits an “unbelievable” average of 350 hours per year to the job, most of it skills training and preparation, Baldwin said.

The series features jaw-dropping behind the scenes footage of helicopter long-line rescues, recruitment and grueling training and the human toll of being a rescue volunteer.

Often, members are called on to drop everything and head to a rally point.

“We’d get the moment when they were called out, leaving their family at Thanksgiving, it actually happened while we were there,” Baldwin said.

“You get to see the impact on the families left at home, and also the highs and low points at the end of a rescue. Not every call in this show has a positive ending.”

Along the way, Baldwin and Christie became so immersed in the team’s work themselves that they became North Shore Rescue resource members, and the pair are now sometimes called on to use their drone skills to assist with searches.

Baldwin said many people would be surprised to learn just who the people conducting the rescues are.

“I don’t think people realize that maybe the person sitting across from you at your work with a tech desk job may be doing this that night, or all night, and then going back to work the next day,” he said.

Episode three airs Tuesday on the Knowledge Network, and the series wraps Dec. 5

Baldwin said he’s already getting questions about a second series.

“We just want people to enjoy this work of two-and-a-half years first, please,” Baldwin said.

“Then we’ll talk about that.”

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