Orcas Fire needs strong leader | Editorial

It’s been a tumultuous year for Orcas Fire and Rescue.

In April, Chief Mik Preysz resigned after a review of his conduct with department members showed inappropriate behavior.

In May, staff and volunteers bared their bums in a nearly nude calendar to raise funds for the volunteer firefighters association. The endeavor was met with mixed results. One Sounder reader wrote, “Is this the way we want our beautiful island defined? … There are other ways to raise funds for the volunteer fire department.”

This summer, a former volunteer trainee who felt she was wronged by the department filed a lawsuit against Orcas Fire and Rescue.

In August, fire commissioner Jim Coffin resigned. The board chose TJ DiCaprio to take his place. In the days following the announcement, members of the community vocalized their discontent with the lack of an election. DiCaprio decided to walk away from the position. For more on this topic, see this week’s letter from Fire Commission Chair Barbara Bedell.

At a future date, the board will hold a meeting about who will fill the spot through the end of December 2017, as the position will be on the November 2017 ballot. Anyone interested in being this interim commissioner can contact Bedell at bedellorcas@gmail.com. For all those who have been vocal about their dissatisfaction with OIFR, now is the time to step up and become a part of the department’s future. It is, after all, your department. If you want to see a change, get on board.

As I sit here and write this column, I am struck by the non-stop activity on the scanner. As of 5 p.m., our department has responded to five aid calls – all for older or elderly patients. Two of them required an airlift. Even amidst a department that is taking a public battering, its staff and volunteers are dedicated to saving lives. This is what matters.

As citizens, it is our duty to be watchdogs, but sometimes we can become too myopic and are unable to see the bigger picture. While the Orcas calendar unveil was poorly timed, it is something that other departments do too. And we don’t believe OIFR was trying to sneak one by us in appointing a new commissioner at its public meeting.

But OIFR has a serious public image problem, and it needs to tread carefully in the coming months. As the search for a new chief continues, we hope a strong leader comes forward to bring the department back on track.

In the meantime, thank you to our first responders for remaining dedicated to our community.