NORDLAND — The rain took a breather on Thursday afternoon that was just long enough for an event decades in the making.
The groundbreaking for East Jefferson Fire Rescue’s Marrowstone Island station took place at 6633 Flagler Road shortly after 1 p.m. — “a really huge moment for us,” said Bud Ayres, president of the Marrowstone Island Foundation.
That group used contributions from 161 donors, he said, toward construction of a fire station for the volunteers who respond to incidents on the island.
So far, the Marrowstone Island Foundation has raised $128,000 toward the project, added past president Bruce Carlson.
That sum, along with $200,000 from East Jefferson Fire Rescue (EJFR), will complete the building of the station; construction is expected to be finished by November 2022.
“Today we have a vacant lot with two garages and a septic system,” EJFR Chief Bret Black told the small crowd assembled for the groundbreaking.
He invited them to visualize the finished station, positioned to shrink emergency response times on the island.
The closest staffed EJFR station is No. 11 at 9193 Rhody Drive in Chimacum, and “response times from that station are approximately 14 minutes,” Black noted in an email after the groundbreaking ceremony.
“When available, Indian Island Fire Station helps us on a regular basis, shaving a few minutes off the response times,” he added.
Last summer, a pilot study posted EJFR volunteers on Marrowstone Island for four weekends; on the one call they received, they showed the response time could be as short as six and a half minutes, Black reported.
When the new station is built, any of EJFR’s 50 volunteers can be tapped to work from it, he said, emphasizing that volunteer first responders are indispensable arms of his agency.
Marrowstone’s history of self-reliance and volunteerism was evident at the groundbreaking: Pat Burns, at 102 the eldest member of the island’s emergency response community, was seated in the front row under the canopy set up for the event.
She was part of Marrowstone Emergency Medical Services, an all-volunteer group that provided ambulance service on the island from the 1970s until 2001, when EJFR took over.
A friend had a story to tell about Burns.
Circa 1984, Cheryl Brunette was at home with her father-in-law, Charles J. Colden, when he suffered a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, sometimes called a mini-stroke.
Brunette called an ambulance, which arrived within minutes — with Burns coming to her front door, ready to provide emergency life support.
Burns and Colden had been sweethearts back in the 1930s, Brunette said.
For her, it was comforting beyond words to have a neighbor and friend come to Colden’s aid.
At Thursday’s groundbreaking, Burns, wearing a construction hardhat over her knit cap, stepped up to the front to wield one of the golden shovels. Beside her were Ayres, Carlson, Black, fire station project manager Jim Nuerenberg and fire commissioner Dave Johnson.
The land where the new fire station will be built was donated by a Marrowstone Island family, Ayres noted.
“We work very hard to support our neighbors,” he said, adding that volunteers — from the island and EJFR — gave hundreds of hours to construction planning.
“Welcome to Station 12,” added Black.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] news.com.