The Agassiz Fire Department (AFD) is saying goodbye to chief Wayne Dyer and welcoming his long time friend and colleague, deputy fire chief Gerald Basten to the position.
Not only have the pair been working together for nearly 29 years, but Dyer credits Basten with convincing him to join AFD in the first place.
“He had a real passion for fire service and basically talked me into giving it a whirl,” Dyer recalled. “I said, ‘okay, I’ll check it out. It’s a way of giving something back to your community.’”
Dyer became an Agassiz firefighter in 1990, moved up to captain rank in 1992 and became chief in 1994. He was only meant to take on the role temporarily, but it grew on him, and he stayed on as chief…for 24 years.
For more than two decades Dyer has been the face of the department and that’s because, despite responding to some of Kent’s most devastating fires and accidents – he says being chief is fulfilling.
“They were looking for somebody to run it and…to keep the fire department going in the right direction,” he said. I just found it so rewarding…It’s one of those jobs you learn to love.”
Part of that loves comes from the team environment, something integral to each fire crew.
“This is my second family,” Dyer said. “My wife used to say it was my first family,” he added with a laugh.
And Basten said his colleague always prioritized the importance of team-building.
“He’s a very big advocate and leader of building morale and team in the working environement,” Basten said.
In 2008, Dyer became Agassiz’s first full-time fire chief.
Both modest and fair, Dyer has been a “good, strong leader,” Basten told the Observer.
“He’s very good at supporting all of his crews [and] all of his company officers,” Basten said. “When somebody does bring an idea or proposal forward, they all get full consideration.”
Basten said Dyer leads the 30-person crew with an openness that has helped the team grow.
“He’s open to ideas and open to expanding, reaching out, seeing what others are doing and building on that,” he said.
When he retires in January, Dyer will be taking a few months off to go to Palm Springs, but says upon his return he will help out at the station when he’s needed.
Basten is excited to take over the role in the new year. He joined AFD at age 16 – an incentive to get out of class, he says with a laugh. Now after 34 years with AFD, Basten said he is looking forward to taking over the role of chief, even if he has big shoes to fill.