Submitted by San Juan Fire Protection District #2.
The Washington State Surveying and Rating Bureau recently conducted a “protection class” evaluation of Orcas Island Fire and Rescue to identify the structural protection and suppression capabilities of the district.
WSRB, which evaluates fire protection in all Washington communities, assigns a score between 1 and 10 (1 indicating exemplary capabilities and 10 indicating insufficient capabilities) using several factors within four general categories:
Water supply: evaluates capacity, distribution and maintenance of water systems and fire hydrants. Major tasks include consideration of hydrant condition, size, type, installation and inspection frequency, as well as calculating required flow for buildings, along with conducting flow tests to measure water pressure and volume.
Fire department: evaluates response to alarms, number and distribution of fire stations, apparatus, equipment, and personnel and their training.
Emergency communications: evaluates the community’s 911 emergency communication system used to dispatch fire response, including their facilities, handling and dispatching fire calls, dispatch personnel levels and training.
Fire safety control: evaluates the fire code enforcement and fire safety education activities in the community.
Upon completion of the evaluation, WSRB issued Orcas Fire with a Protection Class rating of 6, which has been maintained by the district for over 30 years.
The rating given by WSRB is the overall protection class for the community and not the protection class of all properties located on the island. Individual property ratings are determined by proximity to a fire station and fire hydrants, so all dwelling and commercial properties located within 5 road miles of a responding fire station and having standard fire hydrant distribution/water supply will maintain the district rating of 6. These ratings are used as a reference by insurance companies to establish coverage for damage or loss due to a structural fire.
Rural fire districts, like Orcas Island, often face unique challenges compared to larger city departments, including limited budgets, personnel and other resources. One of the notable issues Orcas Island faces is the lack of fire hydrants in outlying areas. To negate this problem, OIFR uses a process known as a water shuttle, utilizing a relay of apparatus and personnel to draft from local water sources such as lakes and ponds or nearby hydrants. The goal of the water shuttle is to maintain an adequate flow of water for firefighting operations over the course of at least 30 minutes or more.
When not running calls, Orcas firefighters meet throughout the month to conduct drills to remain current in firefighting tactics, offer public education opportunities and stand ready to serve our community when the need arises.