South Whidbey Fire/EMS first responders are facing another record year. So far through September, staff and volunteers have responded to 1930 calls from the community requesting assistance for fires and medical emergencies. At the same time last September, the number was 1,739, with total calls for the entire year reaching 2,380. End of year totals were 2,274 in 2014, 2,062 in 2013, and 1,867 in 2012. The number of calls in 2016 is predicted to reach 2,500.
The increased work load was the primary reason the department added paid professional part time first responders this summer. “The five new hires are helping share the load that volunteers have been carrying. We still have three more to hire.” said Chief H.L. “Rusty” Palmer. “We still need more volunteers to ensure we remain responsive. The demands of our community are increasing at an unprecedented rate.”
The five new part time firefighters are Travis Zimmerman, Jeff Hanes, William Piepenbrink, Robert Husom and Alex MacMahon. Testing is complete for the remaining positions. Deputy Chief Jason Laughren announced he will be leaving the department to relocate to a warmer climate. His last day is October 14. His departure created an opportunity to reshuffle the staff to play to the strengths of the team, according to Palmer. Division Chief Wendy Moffatt will be promoted to Deputy Chief to oversee training of both firefighters and EMTs. Deputy Chief Mike Cotton will move to operations, and continues to oversee safety and IT. Deputy Chief Jon Beck remains responsible for equipment. The Division Chief, EMS position will remain vacant for the time being.
The deadline to apply for the next volunteer fire academy is October 31. Applications may be found online.