The Thornhill fire chief didn’t expect to leave town but an opportunity came up that has moved him to Vancouver Island to take a position there.
Wes Patterson worked his last day here June 26 and began his new role as deputy fire chief in Port Alberni on Canada Day.
“It wasn’t something I had even thought about in terms of leaving the area, community or the job,” said Patterson June 19.
“Quite honestly this job has been more than a job and it’s been great, but Port Alberni’s deputy fire chief position had come available. My parents live there so that’s a huge plus.” said Patterson, adding he talked to his wife about the job and she encouraged him to apply for it.
The job will be a change as it’s with a career fire department, while Thornhill is primarily volunteer.
But he will still be working with the volunteer fire departments outside Port Alberni, he said.
“It is a city and has al those things that go along with it and so it’ll be challenging for me,” he said.
“I’ve known the [fire] chief for a number of years and he’s very well-respected with the fire service and the opportunity to work with him and learn from him and for him to mentor me is a great opportunity so all those things have kind of combined that said ‘if you’re going to go, this is the time, this is the place to go,’” said Patterson, about Port Alberni fire chief Tim Pley.
He’s sad to go as he’s met a lot of good people, worked for great people and really enjoyed his time here.
“I’ve met fantastic people both within the fire department and the community and thru the province by having the opportunity to do the things that I’ve done with the regional district with the emergency program, with BC fire chiefs association and training officers association,” he said.
“It was just an amazing opportunity and up until two and a half months ago, I would’ve said I’ll retire here,” he added, saying he’s got another 10 years to work, and he hopes to do all that in Port Alberni as he’s not much for moving around.
His job there is running with four career firefighters and a captain on each shift, fire chief and fire prevention officer, he said.
All the types of firefighting he does up here will be done there too: highway rescue, confined spaces, basic hazmat etc.
Patterson was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba but moved out here when still young so with the exception of a couple of years in Dease Lake, he’s lived here since he was in Grade 6.
He volunteered for the fire department and worked various jobs – including his volunteer time, he’s been with the fire department here for 32 years.
During his volunteer time, he took courses so he could learn how to operate the fire department one day.
When the fire chief left, Patterson became deputy fire chief, first part-time and then full-time.
In 2005, after six years as deputy fire chief, he was appointed to be fire chief when Art Hill retired.
Highlights of his career include getting in on the 1999 or 2000 Kemano Safety Initiative, where he spent time in Kemano burning down houses in a controlled, safe way that helped train firefighters throughout the province.
“That was kind of at the start of my career,” he said.
Seeing 911 implemented in the regional district is another highlight.
He did help rescue a horse that had fallen into the river during a flood years ago.
He was in charge and made the decision to get the horse when no one else would.
“At the end of day, it was the right thing to do. We did it without anybody getting hurt,” said Patterson, adding that wasn’t during the flood of 2007 but was an earlier one.
Another animal call marks another highlight.
He was off duty and out riding his motorcycle when dispatch called to say some ladies were looking for someone to help a baby bird that had fallen out of a tree.
Patterson was only a block-and-a-half away.
“So I zipped over and got the fire truck and put the bird back in the tree and I think they were happy with the response,” he said.
“Hopefully the bird is out there singing away.”
And he’s thankful for being part of the Kitselas agreement the fire department made to provide fire protection for Kleanza, Gitaus and the area.
“I just want to thank everybody, the community and the people I worked with in Thornhill and the Terrace area through the whole regional district.