Fire District 3 extends COVID-19 leave for staff

Strategic Plan approved through 2024

Mike Gawley.

Mike Gawley.

SEQUIM — In one of their final acts of 2021, Clallam County Fire District 3 commissioners unanimously approved expanding COVID-19 supplemental leave for fire district staff.

The district, which covers part of Jefferson County as well as the east side of Clallam County, has expanded allowable COVID-19 leave from 80 to 120 hours to use if personnel are exposed to the virus or if they test positive.

Fire Chief Ben Andrews told commissioners Dec. 21 that the district originally offered 80 hours of temporary leave to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 exposure and did so without any state or federal reimbursement.

“If there is an exposure, they can stay home and reduce the likelihood of impacting the workforce,” he said in an interview.

While firefighters weren’t testing positive from work exposures, they still had to quarantine for 10 days, with one tour equaling 72 hours.

Fire District staff report that, on average, 22 hours of COVID-19 leave was used per firefighter with only a few of the 41 firefighters actually using it.

With only some staff using the leave, and significant precautions to prevent exposures, Andrews said the district was able to bump up the leave to 120 hours.

“They were burning their own personal leave, and I don’t think that’s particularly fair when it’s a workplace exposure keeping them at home,” Andrews said.

Fire district officials have worked with Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, to determine if firefighters can return to work sooner on a case-by-base basis, he said.

“There’s been no coworker-to-coworker transmission; it’s all been outside of work,” Andrews said. “They’re not getting it from a patient or getting it from us.”

For each patient, firefighters and paramedics/EMTs wear gloves, a surgical mask and eye protection, and if a patient is COVID-19 positive, the first responders wear an N95 mask and coveralls or a gown.

An aerosol procedure and N100 MASK are used in those instances, too, Andrews said.

There have been no staffing issues, he said.

“This (procedure) isn’t new; what we’re doing is working,” Andrews said.

“I’m not panicked.”

Staff are encouraged to stay home if sick, and he hopes the trend continues once the pandemic is over.

Strategic plan

Commissioners also unanimously approved the district’s 2021-2024 strategic plan.

Its final version will be available on the district’s website at in the coming weeks with paper copies available by request by calling 360-683-4242.

Previously, Assistant Fire Chief Dan Orr said the plan breaks down into four areas: service delivery, communication, planning and professional development.

“It’s important for everyone to see where we’re heading,” Orr said.

During the first months of this year, district staff plan to perform an internal study of data, define and evaluate culture of accountability, review maintenance apparatus plan, and track maintenance costs, identify and pursue additional revenue sources, and establish current, accurate position descriptions and tasks for each district position.

Gawley ends term

Outgoing fire commissioner Mike Gawley was honored on Dec. 21 for his service as a volunteer firefighter and commissioner with a certificate and plaque that’s on order.

“It’s been an honor and privilege to be up here,” he said.

“Not all my decisions have been particularly popular, but I felt all the decisions were right. I look forward to coming back occasionally and checking in.”

Volunteer firefighter Jeff Nicholas, who retired in 2008 after serving as a naval submarine officer/captain for 30 years, and retired again in 2017 from working in advanced electro-optic camera systems, was elected in the general election to fill Commissioner Position 1 for six years.

Gawley, a retired Federal Aviation Administration support specialist and computer programmer, said last summer his plan was to focus more on his family and hobbies.

He retired to Sequim in 2005 and became a volunteer firefighter and EMT before being appointed as a fire commissioner in February 2014. Later, he was elected to serve in the position through the end of this year.

Last summer, he said the board’s accomplishments included hiring a new chief, assistant chiefs and additional firefighters and paramedics, upgrading equipment, increasing training and continuing “prudent fiscal management.”


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

More in News

Port Angeles firefighters and a Clallam County technical rescue team place a litter onto a ladder track after pulling a person from a water tank at the site of the former Rayonier pulp mill on Thursday morning in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Man rescued from abandoned water tank

Unknown how or why he got there

Losses shrink at OMC

$872K lost in August, down from July’s $3.5M

Wind blows smoke into Elwha Valley

Wildfire pollution expected to clear today

Port Angeles approves increase in sales tax

Move raises city’s retail sales tax to 8.7 percent

Port of Port Angeles approves hangar site design contract

Commissioners have first look at 2024 capital projects budget

Free days set Saturday at parks, national forest

Olympic National Park, Olympic National Forest and Washington state parks will be… Continue reading

Power restored after more than 6,300 lose electricity

A fault on a Bonneville Power Administration transmission line… Continue reading

Tim Morland, front, and Rich Lear of Tualatin, Ore.-based Field Turf USA add fill to the playing surface at the new Monroe Athletic Field on Tuesday at the site of the former Monroe School near Roosevelt Elementary School in Port Angeles. The synthetic turf field, which is expected to be completed by mid-autumn, is being developed by the Port Angeles School District and will be available for community athletic events. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Monroe field prep

Tim Morland, front, and Rich Lear of Tualatin, Ore.-based Field Turf USA… Continue reading

Petitions developed by local citizens seek to keep the “new” Towne Road unpaved and open to hikers and walkers. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Public comment sought about Sequim’s Towne Road future

Meeting for residents scheduled for Tuesday

Most Read