The career and volunteer firefighters who make up Okanogan County Fire District 6’s roster had a busy emergency response year in 2019. Following are a few highlights and notes from the previous year’s activities.
Emergency incident response
Last year was the busiest emergency response year in the district’s 62-year history. The district responded to 339 emergency calls in 2019, a 9% increase over 2018. The calls ran the gambit, among them was a wildland fire in July that broke our near a home on Rendezvous Road. In conjunction with the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service, the fire was contained to approximately 175 acres without the loss of any structures or impact to life.
There were four major structure fires. One occurred in February when temperatures were below freezing, which resulted in firefighters having to thaw out air packs, hoses and personal protective equipment back at the fire station, after working in the frigid temps to extinguish the fire.
Volunteers and training
Staff and volunteers trained seven new recruit firefighters. It takes each recruit, on average, 3,250 hours to earn their structure and wildland firefighter credential, with training provided by the district. Additionally, district firefighters logged 3,651 training hours of their own over the course of the year.
Public education and community support
The Methow Valley School District and Little Star Montessori School received fire prevention training by district firefighters. The district was also on hand at the Twisp Arts in the Park event, Pearrygin Lake Kid’s Bike Rodeos, Halloween Trunk or Treat, and the Twisp and Winthrop Christmas Meal Program. Also, for the fifth year in a row, the district was awarded a $1,000 grant from the Association of Washington Business Institute, which was used to purchased gift cards at Hank’s Harvest Foods and Ulrich’s Pharmacy for distribution to families in need throughout the valley.
Recently retired Fire Chief Don Waller passed away last November after a hard-fought battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He is remembered by the district and Methow Valley at large for his tireless work towards improving and supporting the operations, equipment and facilities of the district.