Community Paramedic Chief Retires

Often in this community the coming and going factor of the North can seriously affect the longevity of people in positions of such importance. Not so for former Paramedic Chief Bill Hendley, our longest standing paramedic in Tumbler Ridge.

Starting out in April of 1991, Hendley began as a paramedic and was undecided about the choice of making it a career until a serious call changed his spectrum. A plane crashed near the Tumbler Ridge airport and with a death involved alongside of helping seriously injured, he felt a great call for helping his fellow man in a terrible time. That was just over 15 years ago.

Sharing the retirement celebration with Hendley was paramedic Hazel Peters, who joined British Columbia Ambulance Service (BCAS) two years ago. Peters spoke fondly of the people in her experience as a paramedic and felt it was time to retire.

Both Hendley and another paramedic, Gerri Simmons received their 15-year pin and citation, recognition of service with BCAS. These types of citations are awarded in fire, police and ambulatory services. Accompanied by his family, guest Ward Menafie, Superintendent for the Direct Region from Dawson Creek was at the barbecue to present the awards.

Hendley is pleased with some of the accomplishments during his tenure, although in a remote area the timing can be somewhat drawn out. Two important changes that have helped in emergency services have been the 9-1-1 service and kilometer posts every 5 km on the highway. The kilometer signs, specifically, help a caller know exactly where they are on the highway and when emergency services asks the location, the route is significantly narrowed down for emergency services. Hendley will now focus on his job as Facility Manager for Renaissance Canada. ?Brian (Wylie) will make a good Chief? he says assuredly, ?I?m happy to hand over the reins.?

Upon Hendley?s retirement from BCAS, the service promotes former paramedic Brian Wylie to Paramedic Chief. Wylie and his family hail from the lower mainland and have lived in Tumbler Ridge since 2001. Until last year, he worked out of town as a licensed mechanic. More recently he spent the last school year teaching Auto Mechanics for Tumbler Ridge Secondary High School and working as on-call paramedic. He resides in the community with wife Kim and their two sons Aaron, 11 and Jared. 9.

Wylie had worked as a paramedic in both Dawson Creek and Fort St. John as well. His experience as a paramedic began in November 2002 and he says he had always hoped his career with BCAS would head in this direction.

Wylie is pleased with the group of paramedics in place, saying ?There will be a few hiccups at first, but I?m confident that we will be successful (as a team).? The present roster of paramedics in Tumbler Ridge are; Brian Wylie, Bill Hendley (remaining), Shawna Spratt, Don Spratt, Ben Kostamo, Val Kostamo, Debbie Head and Lillian Ash. With the exception of Gerri Simmons, Hendley hired each one of the paramedics during his run. Of his crew, Wylie said ?I look forward to doing my best for the community. We have a great group with the police, fire department and ambulance here. Our community should be proud of those services.?

Wylie began his command with the first order of business. He turned towards Hendley and said earnestly, ? We are indebted to Bill Hendley for his service in this community.? Hendley smiled appreciatively and countered in his speech, ?I?m glad that (Brian) has such enthusiasm for this.? He then gave accolades to his former crew of paramedics, saying ?They won?t let you down. It is the highest compliment I can give that they would come through for you and if I had to be (in medical trouble) anywhere, it is here I would choose.?

Due to the fact that Tumbler Ridge is a remote community, paramedics are part-time and on-call via pager. BCAS is always in need of paramedics in our area. If you are interested in joining the BC Ambulance Service team, please