By Ross Darling
For about 11 months, I served on the Okanogan County Fire District 6 advisory board, learning about the district and waiting for them to give us a task or asking what we thought about regarding various district concerns. That was not to be. Finally, the commissioners said they had mis-named the board and that what they really wanted us to do was promote the upcoming levy.
I asked the chief what the plan for the state industrial inspection deficiencies were if the levy failed. He said they had none. This tells me that no options were explored regarding these safety issues. Items such as building alterations; different parking arrangements; changing gear storage area; purchasing adjoining property for expansion and other possible solutions were never looked at.
On this same line, the county, however, is currently looking at how the recent Carlton Complex Fire was handled. Until this study is done it seems unwise to spend money on a new fire station when money may need to be spent for items or procedures needed to fight this kind of wildfire more efficiently and quickly. The experts say that initial attack is your best answer to wildfire. The quicker you get to the fire, the better your chances of containing it. By moving the fire station, those folks in downtown Winthrop, up the Chewuch and the lower Mazama area are looking at a slower response time because of increased travel time and traveling through Winthrop when it’s bumper-to-bumper. This is the opposite of what we should be striving for.
The chief and commissioners say that they do not have enough volunteers because of the increasing amount of training it takes and the busy lifestyles people have today. The next step would be paid firemen. If this is the case, these paid firemen would need to be stationed at our respective stations at Carlton, Twisp, Winthrop and Mazama. This will cost a lot more money, but put firemen where they can quickly respond. The chief told the committee that often the truck comes from Winthrop or Twisp because volunteers are unavailable in the Carlton area. If you live up Texas Creek or Gold Creek, you are not going to be real pleased with this.
As you can see, there are many things to consider before casting your vote. The advisory committee should be reinstated as an advisory resource and not a public relations tool. We need to look at the above items as well as others brought up by friends, neighbors and the county study. Don’t vote “yes” on the levy until all the questions have been answered and you are sure a new station will make for better fire protection and not to be followed by another levy for yet more money because we didn’t get all the information we needed to make a sound decision.
Ross Darling lives in Twisp.