British Columbia

3,500 expected at Tofino paramedics' memorial

The Vancouver Island town of Tofino is expecting to more than double in size Saturday as thousands of people arrive to pay tribute to two paramedics.

The Vancouver Island town of Tofino is expecting to more than double in size Saturday as thousands of people arrive to pay tribute to two paramedics.

Jo-Ann Fuller and Ivan Polivka died Oct. 19 when their ambulance plunged 60 metres from a twisting section of Highway 4 into Kennedy Lake about 4 a.m. as the pair were returning after transferring a patient to Port Alberni. 

The town has built a temporary addition to the Wickaninnish Community School to host the memorial service.

A massive framed tent is being constructed adjacent to the school, making it one of the largest buildings in the town, journalist Jackie Windh told CBC News.

"For that many people coming in and the weather forecast [Saturday] isn't that great, and just our school gym or the community hall wouldn't suffice," said Windh.

The town of 1,500 residents is expecting an additional 3,500 people to attend the memorial, which begins at 1 p.m. PT.

Paramedics and other first responders are expected from all over Canada, said B.C. paramedic spokesman B.J. Chute.

"When one of our colleagues falls we feel this pain right across the country," said Chute. "We feel the pain throughout the emergency services and it's a way for other emergency services to come forward and show their respect."

Windh said the owners of some resorts and bed-and-breakfasts have offered free accommodation to paramedics or emergency services personnel going to Tofino.

Pacific Rim National Park is also helping out by providing free parking in its lots and shuttles will be provided to the service to help reduce traffic congestion, said Windh.

A total of 10 B.C. paramedics — including Fuller and Polivka — have died on the job since the early 1970s, said Chute.

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