PORT ANGELES — After volunteering more than 28 years to firefighting in Clallam County, Mike DeRousie, assistant chief of Clallam Fire District No. 2, is preparing to retire Friday.
DeRousie, who also owns the Spa Shop Pellet Heat Co. in Port Angeles, said that at 64, it’s time for him to retire from the fire service, spend more time with his 10 grandchildren and begin to give back to his family who have had to accept the erratic schedule of a volunteer firefighter. He will continue the Spa Shop.
“My family has always been really good with me getting up and leaving in the middle of the night or in the middle of a movie,” DeRousie said.
“They have been really good about that, so I think it’s time to give back to them.
“I think it’s time for me to move on and leave it to the younger people so I can do more things with my family.”
A reception for DeRousie is planned for 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today at the fire district’s administrative office, 1212 E. First St., Port Angeles.
DeRousie got his start with Clallam Fire District No. 2 after spending six years in the National Ski Patrol helping skiers at Hurricane Ridge. He said friends in the fire department talked with him about joining and he liked the idea of continuing to help people.
He spent most of his 28 years with Clallam First District No. 2 — which covers 85 miles outside the city of Port Angeles in Clallam County — though he had a short stint as a volunteer with the Port Angeles Fire Department before returning to the fire district and climbing through the ranks.
Throughout the years DeRousie served as firefighter, lieutenant, captain and assistant chief and has developed lifelong friendships with others at the fire district, which he described as a family.
Assistant Chief Dan Huff said DeRousie has been a leader and mentor to the younger volunteers and that he considers him his best friend.
“We’ve had challenging calls over the years and have had each others’ backs,” Huff said. “I couldn’t ask for a better friend or a better person to work beside all these years.”
DeRousie recalled several incidents he has responded too over the years, including medical calls, structure fires and rescues.
“There’s hundreds and hundreds of calls,” DeRousie said. “Some went really well and some didn’t go so well.”
One that did end well was when a hiker from Lynwood survived a fall over three waterfalls at Sol Duc Falls in 2016.
Another he recalled was when a home on Whispering Firs Road off Lower Elwha Road burned in 2015.
Though the home was completely destroyed, he said what was amazing was a nearby house was nearly unscathed.
“The house did burn down — it was totally engulfed when we got there — but we saved the house next to it,” DeRousie said. “The fire investigator from the insurance company told [Chief Sam Phillips] he didn’t understand why that house didn’t burn down.”
Not all calls are like that though. Many calls, many of which are medical, involve elderly people who are down on their luck.
He said he and other firefighters often help out when they can, which can include cleaning up so that patients don’t return home to a mess.
“One time I did that, I had locked my medical bag inside the house,” DeRousie said. “I had to find the person [at the hospital] and ask if I could have the key to the house. I had to hurry and do that before the next call came out.”
A tradition DeRousie started at the fire district several years ago is likely to remain.
Firefighters use pass tags — name tags — so that incident commanders can account for everyone at the scene of a fire. Sometimes firefighters forget to check out at a scene, so DeRousie developed a plan to encourage firefighters to collect their pass tags.
“Mike developed a scheme here that if you forget your pass tags you’ll probably only do it once, because the next time you’ll have to go get it out of a block of ice in the freezer,” Phillips said.
Firefighters said that everyone at the fire district knows that if they can’t find their pass tag, they need to look in the freezer where there’s likely a block of ice with their name in it.
Phillips said DeRousie has held many positions and had earned many certifications during his time with the fire district. It took several minutes for Phillips to list all of DeRousie’s training.
DeRousie has been a station training officer, station medical officer, emergency vehicle accident prevention program certified lead instructor, fire and arson investigator, incident information officer, senior leader for the explorer post, certified incident safety instructor, live fire instructor, extrication instructor and basic life support EMS (emergency medical service) evaluator.
DeRousie also holds about 20 certifications in things such as modern fire attack, trauma triage treatment for patients, liquid petroleum gas training and others.
Phillips said it hasn’t quite hit him yet that DeRousie is retiring and that he feels there’s no way to actually replace him.
He said DeRousie has been a leader in the organization and is often mentoring and coaching others.
“Even for me Mike has been a confidant and someone I can listen to and take wisdom from,” he said. “It’s going to be real hard to fill those shoes.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].