Fernie's Ambulance Team
This month I yet again had my eyes opened to another service here in Fernie that I knew very little about and had previously never personally come across. Which, considering the service, to a certain extent, is a good thing. However, this month I discovered that as a community, we are in very safe hands, twenty-seven pairs of hands in fact, all passionate about serving this community and beyond. I met with Unit Chief Blake Elford from the Fernie Ambulance Service to find out more about him and his twenty-seven unsung heroes.
How does the BC Ambulance Service operate?
“The whole province is one service, when the Fernie cars are busy, Sparwood comes down to help out and vice versa. It is truly a team-oriented group, with the overseeing Superintendent being based out of Cranbrook.” Visiting the Fernie Station, it was immediately clear that it’s a well-managed, well-run and friendly workplace, bringing about a trusting and caring environment.
What would many people be surprised to learn about Fernie's Ambulance Service and your team?
“We are staffed 24/7 with two people in the station ready to respond and be on the road within ninety seconds of a call, with twenty-seven employees covering an area from mid-way to Sparwood, to Tie Lake, to the Roosville Border.” That’s a large area with undoubtedly a whole host of situations to come across.
But as Blake explains, “aside from the obvious trauma calls, it’s the quiet side of the job, moving patients from one hospital to another for tests and procedures. You meet everyone from every aspect of life at one point or other. My youngest patient was under two minutes old and my oldest was one hundred and four. I get the gift of hearing their stories and being a very small part of their collage of memories.”
What’s the best thing about working in a comparatively small community?
“The greatest part about the job is being able to help people out of bad situations on possibly the worst day of their lives. The second greatest part about the provincial service is the ability to move around the province.” Blake started in Creston thirteen years ago, “then I moved onto Vancouver and the Lower East side dealing with addiction challenges, drugs and violence, then three years later I was flying in the Northern Lights in a small plane while delivering a patient from a small community to Edmonton.” As Blake says, “I have seen the greatest and worst of humanity and still wake up and look forward to every day”.
How has the Fernie station changed over the years?
“The station has had a major injection of fresh paramedics and Emergency Medical Responders over the last year, infusing fresh staff with knowledgeable senior staff.” Plus in typical Fernie style, “we have staff with backgrounds in practically everything – when I have a computer problem I can go to one staff member and when I need to know the history of the community I go to another. From firefighting to neurosurgery we cover it all!”
As with many people who’d moved away, but are now back living in Fernie, Blake is very happy to be back in the Kootenays and a part of the Fernie community. It’s clear that Blake brings a wealth of experience to share from his various posts, whilst eagerly welcoming new staff on board.
If you’ve ever wanted to find out more or get involved, you can check out www.bcas.ca, which has a few tools to help see if you would like to work for the Ambulance Service, or you can call 250-423-6962 for more information. A rewarding and diverse career path awaits you.