You may have seen the signs on South Whidbey, “Vote Yes Fire.”
I recently retired from South Whidbey Fire/EMS after 28 years.
The hard-working volunteers who continue the longstanding tradition of providing fire and medical responses to our community need our help. The call volume in 1993 when I started was a mere 400 calls per year, over one per day.
Presently, the calls for service exceed 2,500 during the past several years, about seven per day average.
I applaud the volunteers past and present that respond and protect our community.
It has become much harder to attract and train volunteers. The time commitment to become certified has changed. Training a firefighter requires 150-200 hours or more, the time commitment to become an EMT requires about the same.
The fire and medical emergencies are no different here than in those larger communities. Many of your volunteer’s choose become both a firefighter and an EMT.
Once certifications are completed, training is required to maintain that level of proficiency.
With the call volume at the current levels and predicted to increase, the volunteer force can experience a difficult time maintaining their training and responding to calls.
Several years ago the district hired part-time firefighter/EMTs. They are on-shift during the day, Monday through Friday, a typical time when many of the volunteers are at their various places of employment.
The district also recruited firefighter/EMTs who live “out of district” to volunteer and schedule shifts to respond to emergencies in our community.
Calls for service don’t always spread out during the day, they can happen with several at once. That creates additional demands on the system and the resources.
If it occurs during the day, volunteer responders could be very limited based on their own schedule. I can recall a 12-hour day shift with 13 calls for service, majority of them were medical. All were important.
South Whidbey Fire/EMS commissioners and district chiefs, past and present, have done a tremendous job with managing your tax dollars. Only asking for a 15 cent tax increase per $1,000.00 only once in the past 20 plus years.
On Tuesday, Aug. 4, South Whidbey Fire/EMS is asking for a 30 cents per $1,000 increase. Volunteers will be a part of South Whidbey Fire/EMS for a longtime.
However, they do need support by hiring additional firefighters to respond the community’s need. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic created an increased need for personal protective equipment, or PPE, for responder health and safety, much greater than ever anticipated.
None of us are getting any younger and we may someday need the services of South Whidbey Fire/EMS. I encourage you to support your local fire department by vote “yes” fire, on Aug. 4.
Mike Cotton, retired
Deputy Chief Operations
South Whidbey Fire/EMS