SEQUIM — One of Clallam County Fire District 3’s most active volunteer firefighters has received a top state honor for his efforts.
Blaine Zechenelly of Dungeness was named Washington Volunteer EMS Responder of the Year on May 20 at the Washington State Fire Fighters’ Association’s (WSFFA) 100th anniversary conference in Wenatchee.
Zechenelly, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program manager and disaster planner, accepted the award in person with his wife Cindy, also an active fire district volunteer, interim fire chief Dan Orr, and firefighter/EMT Jaisal White.
“The fact that I get to bring it home to this community and represent this community is a pretty big deal,” Zechenelly said.
Administrative assistant Lori Coleman nominated him for the honor. He was chosen from a field of about 25,000 volunteer firefighters in the state.
In her application, she wrote that Zechenelly has “made a real difference in people’s lives, and he has done it all as a volunteer.”
“Blaine is perhaps the hardest working, most selfless individual I have ever met,” Orr said.
He attributes Zechenelly’s work with CERT in making it “one of the most robust CERTs in the state of Washington.”
Zechenelly was also active in many service aid calls in 2022, responding to more than 600 EMS calls with about 85 percent of those north of Woodcock Road, he said.
“He truly possesses a service heart,” Orr said.
“(Blaine and Cindy), who has many of the same traits as him, have had a huge effect on this organization.
“This district would not be where it is today without the Zechenellys.”
In 2020, the Zechenellys received 2020 Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards for their efforts in helping with disaster preparedness.
Orr said they were instrumental in helping to coordinate COVID-19 vaccination tents and food distribution during the pandemic, too.
Coleman wrote that Zechenelly and CERT members helped coordinate about 20,000 vehicles through tents in Carrie Blake Community Park for about 50,000 vaccinations without incident.
In 2022, the Zechenellys also received Gold awards for the 2021 President’s Volunteer Service Award after volunteering more than 500 service hours.
Blaine Zechenelly is one of about 40 volunteer firefighters/EMS with the fire district, and he’s helped train 500-plus community members for CERT. He started volunteering with the district in 2013 after he retired as a corporate director at IBM and Hitachi.
Zechenelly started as an volunteer EMT in 1999 while living in California, calling it his “weekend job,” along with working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Zechenelly said he’s going to continue doing what he’s doing while enhancing “the next generation of resiliency in the community” for disaster management. He said part of that includes planning and partnering with big box stores, local groups and small businesses during an emergency.
“It’s about getting people to all work together,” he said.
Another continued effort is encouraging locals to keep at least 30 days of food and supplies for emergencies too.
For more about volunteering, visit ccfd3.org or call 360-683-4242.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.