Fires, car wrecks, and medical calls — if there’s a Sequim area emergency, Clallam County Fire District 3 crews are likely on the scene.
Working alongside career firefighters and medics, volunteers respond to calls helping to extinguish the fires and resuscitate neighbors.
“They are priceless, from our perspective,” District 3 Assistant Fire Chief Dan Orr said.
A new 12-week firefighter recruit class is opening up this January and the fire department seeks people 18 and up to help their community in various capacities.
Orr said people can learn to go into burning buildings, drive large trucks and/or learn basic first aid over time.
“No matter what they do, they are a value added to the organization,” he said.
As many as 60 volunteers serve the Sequim area from Deer Park to Gardiner. Attrition, however, is commonplace, Orr said.
“Everybody’s life is always changing and moving,” he said. “The normal attrition rate is four or five years.”
Some volunteers include aspiring career firefighters or retirees looking to try something else.
Concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic have limited the district’s volunteer numbers some as well. No crew members have tested positive for COVID-19 through the pandemic, Orr said.
“We as a district have done a good job of protecting our folks and the community the best we can,” he said.
“Each day we learn a little bit more. It’s gotten into a routine now of how to avoid it. The fire station has also been closed to the public, and there hasn’t been Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. We’re trying to keep everyone as well as we can.”
The volunteer firefighting course begins in January with an initial 12-week Recruit Academy.
For more information, call 360-683-4242 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Along with the intrinsic satisfaction of helping your neighborhood, volunteers in the more rural parts of Sequim such as Diamond Point find having more volunteer firefighters could bring down everyone’s fire insurance rates.
Clallam County Fire District 3 was re-rated by the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau (WSRB) in May 2019 on a scale of 1-10 (best to worst) of its performance capability.
Because of that re-rating, done about every five years, residents in Diamond Point received a Class Nine rating and higher fire insurance rates from some providers.
Firefighter/EMT Joe Carter in Diamond Point said his fire insurance rate went up about $350 a year and some of his neighbors went to as much as $500 a year.
Orr said ratings are based on multiple factors: the community’s water system capabilities, fire code enforcement, staffing levels, station locations and more.
The City of Sequim is rated a Class Four largely because of its hydrant availability while other areas are Class Five.
Diamond Point’s relatively high rating stems partly from having only four volunteer firefighters of a minimum six because the Diamond Point Fire Station 35 (all-volunteer) is not within 5 road miles of a career-staffed fire station.
“It’s basically six people who are trained to put on a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus,” Orr said. “If we got some people interested in volunteering and going through the fire academy, then we could petition the WSRB.”
Lt. Mike Mingee, a retired firefighter from Santa Barbara, joined as a volunteer in 2017 after retiring two years earlier.
“I felt I still possessed skills to give back to the community,” he said.
Diamond Point averages about 20 calls a month, with about 90 percent of those emergency medical-related.
Carter has been with the station about six years after 30 years with the Department of Justice.
One aid call stands out to him; he and EMT Marydee Countryman went to a call to help a baby who was not breathing.
“We put some oxygen on him and he responded rapidly,” Carter said. “The big thing here is having someone on call to respond so quickly.”
As mentioned, Mingee said there’s opportunity for everyone, “whatever your skill set.”
Despite needing more volunteers, Diamond Point is one of the larger volunteer groups, they said. With seven fire stations (three staffed), the volunteer Lost Mountain Road Station has been unmanned for about five years, Orr said, and it’s used for storage.
For more information on volunteering, visit ccfd3.org, call 360-683-4242 or email to email@example.com.