No fire personnel lost due to COVID vaccine mandate
By Fire Chief Mike Bucy
Fire District 1 would like to extend a huge “Thank You” to all our communities. This has been a very tough year as we respond to yet another record-breaking year of calls. We also continue to deal with the tragedy of the head-on accident in June (we expect the second firefighter back to work in early November), a huge wildland incident within our own Fire District, and the unexpected loss of neighboring firefighters, all the while continuing to deal with the COVID pandemic.
Each of you have given us so much support during this trying time, but most importantly, you stepped up and made the visiting firefighters—those that came from around the country to fight the Ford-Corkscrew Fire—feel welcomed and special. Many of those firefighters made specific mention of their gratitude in how they were treated locally. While we have always bragged about how special each of our citizens are, it was good to hear an outside opinion.
Fire District 1 appreciates the amazing support of our citizens and each of the outstanding businesses in our area.
District Breaks Annual Call Volume Record
Fire District 1 broke its annual call volume record on October 25. In 2020, we ran 1,616 calls for service. For 2021, we are projected to run over 1,900 calls. While there was a definite uptick in wildland calls (10% increase), other calls were also on the increase. The number of COVID-related calls over the past two months has increased as well.
As the wildland season waned, the calls for structure fires—homes, sheds, pole buildings—increased as various forms of alternative heating took over. A few of the structure fires also spread into the wildland, as some areas were still dry.
This is the time to have chimney flues cleaned, furnaces checked by a professional, and alternative heating units serviced. In addition, many of these units can produce deadly carbon monoxide gas if used indoors or improperly.
Wildland Season Presents Additional Concerns
While the wildland season is over, there are still potential effects that could be around at least until summer.
The burn scars produced by the Ford-Corkscrew Fire can lead to heavy run off during rains or snow melts. That fire left very little vegetation in its wake. That means even smaller amounts of water can cause much larger problems, from sluffing to landslides of barren terrain. Use caution in the area. If you live in those areas, have a specialist assess the potential for further damage.
Washington State’s COVID mandate also reached the Fire District. We are happy to report that almost all our personnel were able to get vaccinated and remain active on our schedule. A few were granted exemptions and accommodations (some of whom ended up getting vaccinated) while three volunteers stepped down.
Precautions for all personnel (and our citizens) remain in place and have been very effective since the beginning of the pandemic. Our stations will continue to remain closed to the public for the near future.
Last month we reported a FEMA award of $239,000 towards recruitment and retention. Unfortunately, two other FEMA grants were denied (but we will try again). We continue to learn more about each of these grant processes and are confident that we can eventually be awarded these grants as well.
Another grant announcement, from the state Dept. of Ecology, is expected by mid-November. This award is to replace aging pagers and radios. The original grant request was for $230,000 but could be pared back by the DOE to $100,000, depending on the number of grants awarded (there were 41 applications).
Grants in the emergency services field are very competitive and hard to come by. District 1 participates in application reviews and works with an outside grant writer to help refine the applications.