PORT ANGELES — A four-year, $168,000 federal grant that funds recruitment and training for Clallam County Fire District 2 volunteer firefighters ends May 3, Chief Sam Phillips said Tuesday.
Phillips issued a plea for volunteers at the Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting attended by 30 participants.
The district has 44-48 volunteers and nine full-time employees, including six firefighter-paramedics, Phillips said.
“We need 60, consistently, or more,” he said.
The 85-square mile area covered by District 2 has 9,500 residents and stretches from Deer Park just east of Port Angeles, wraps around the city, and west to Lake Crescent.
Most of District 2’s emergency calls — it receives an average of 4.6 calls daily — are generated east of Port Angeles.
Its staff of firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians are 80 percent volunteer, Phillips added.
There are nine full-time personnel, six of whom are on 24-hour shifts for emergency response.
Its origins stretch back to World War II.
In 1943, the Gales Addition station just east of the city limit was organized by housewives concerned about fire protection, said Phillips, who was joined at the breakfast by volunteer assistant Fire Chiefs Dan Huff, owner of DK Painting, and Mike DeRousie, owner of the Spa Shop and Pellet Heat Co.
The district’s four stations were all-volunteer until 1998.
Now there are between 44-48 volunteers, Phillips told breakfastgoers.
“On any given day, we don’t know how many are going to be available,” he said.
“We know we’re going to get 4.6 calls a day.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Staffing for Effective Emergency Response Grant was awarded May 4, 2014 and expires May 3.
The district received $60,000 for training for firefighter 1, firefighter 2 and fire officer positions; $58,000 for marketing, advertising and recruitment; $34,000 for basic EMT training and $16,000 for station duty uniforms.
“After this, it’s up to the fire district to come up with new and creative ways to do recruiting and keep the people we have,” Phillips said in a later interview.
Area fire districts do help each other, Phillips said.
District 2 personnel attend training academies hosted by Sequim-area Fire District 3 in return for in-kind assistance such as loaning a fire engine to District 3 for training, but District 2 must still fund tuition and books for EMT training, Phillips said.
The impact of a lower-than-optimum number of volunteers for District 2 and the neighboring city of Port Angeles fire department is softened by their joint agreement to share volunteers, officials from the two departments said Tuesday.
The pact was signed around 2012 in anticipation of the districts consolidating and remained in place when those efforts failed.
“It made sense to continue that and not let, if you will, the politics of it become an impedance to our volunteer programs and so forth,” Assistant Chief Keith Bogues said Tuesday.
The Port Angeles Fire Department has 24 career firefighter positions, two of which are vacant and most of which paramedics, and three chief officers.
The department also has 20 active volunteers and typically a maximum of 24 volunteer slots to fill.
“There’s a core group of probably six or seven, maybe eight, that are go-to [volunteers],” Bogues said.
“The search never ends” for volunteers, he added.
“It’s such a small community that we have to rely on our neighbors.”
Bogues said the Port Angeles department, which lacks an advertising budget for volunteers, has benefited from District 2’s advertising efforts to attract volunteers that were made possible by the FEMA grant.
“The reality is we have a significantly larger career staff,” Bogues said.
“They have a much larger district in terms of area, and volunteers are a lot more critical part of their operation.
“They are extraordinarily important to us.”
Volunteers in both districts are paid $18-$30 for each call-out and for training sessions, have their firefighters and EMT training costs covered, and receive other benefits such as enrollment in the state volunteer retirement system.
Volunteers can obtain applications at www.clallamfire2.org or by calling 360-457-2550.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].