PORT ANGELES — Jake Patterson, who has spent most of his firefighting career in Clallam County, is taking charge of Clallam County Fire District 2 today following the retirement of Chief Sam Phillips.
“Jake is an extraordinary fire officer and I have the fullest confidence in his ability to take us to new levels in the fire district,” Phillips said Sunday. “I think he is going to serve the district well and I couldn’t have been happier to have someone working with me as I transition out.”
Started as a volunteer
Patterson, a Sequim resident, has been fighting fires since he started as a volunteer at the Port Angeles Fire Department in 1992. In 1994, the city of Richland hired him as a firefighter/EMT and he returned to Port Angeles as a career firefighter in 2000. In 2008 he was promoted to lieutenant.
Clallam Fire District 2 hired Patterson in 2017 to serve as its deputy chief.
Phillips said Patterson has earned a master’s degree in public administration and is in the final stages of the four-year Executive Fire Officer program at the National Fire Academy.
Patterson, a former Marine, is looking forward to facing a number of challenges as he begins his tenure as the district’s fire chief.
“The fire district has done really well with managing its budget … but there are some big issues that no matter how well we prepare for and no matter how frugal we are with the public’s money, we’re going to need some help from the public,” Patterson said.
He said the fire district needs to look at replacing its aging stations and its aging vehicles, a multi-million dollar effort he said the district will likely ask voters to approve next year in the form of a bond.
Exactly how much the district will ask for and exactly what the money would be used for is still in the works, he said.
“Our fire stations were constructed over 60 years ago and with the expansion of our [advanced life support] program and addition of career staff, we have outgrown our facilities,” he said. “We’re in the early stages of planning and information gathering so that we have the complete package to present that the voters are comfortable with supporting.”
The fire district covers 85 square miles, from East Beach Road at Lake Crescent to Deer Park Road east of Port Angeles, not including the city itself.
It has four active stations, including ones in Gales Addition, the Dry Creek area, the Black Diamond area and the Deer Park area. It has a fifth station near Lake Sutherland that has closed due to lack of volunteers in the area and is used for storage, he said.
Another challenge Patterson expects to contend with is the shortage of volunteers that fire departments across the country face.
In recent years the district added six career firefighters and typically has between 40 and 45 volunteer firefighters, but the number of calls the district faces continues to grow. Patterson said that ideally the district would have 60 volunteers.
Fire and medical response calls grew from 979 in 2011 to 1,774 in 2018, climbing 81 percent.
“It’s difficult to recruit and retain volunteers,” Patterson said. “Life gets in the way and the department is getting busier. Demand has been steadily increasing and it’s several times a day that they are getting called out.”
Patterson said he is thankful for Phillips’ support and that his retirement is “well-deserved.”
“I appreciate the opportunity Chief Phillips gave me a couple years ago,” Patterson said. “He has been supportive of me moving into this position.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].