Opinion

Fire Chief’s report | Guest column

Chief Kevin O
Chief Kevin O'Brien O
— image credit: Cali Bagby/ Staff photo

by KEVIN O’BRIEN

Orcas Fire and Rescue

From Nov. 13 through Dec. 11, the following calls came in: EMS – 42 (562 year to date) and Fire – 16 (183 year to date). Year to date responses have increased 12 percent.

Thank you to Orcas taxpayers! In 1999 Orcas voters approved a bond initiative to improve fire and EMS services for our island. Our service has improved and we are pleased to announce that Orcas Island Fire and Rescue has made its last bond payment early saving taxpayers three years of interest amounting to $69,420.

The original bond total was $2,000,000, issued in 2000 with the first payment in 2001 and scheduled to continue through 2014. The bond was issued to facilitate the following improved projects: construction of the Eastsound Fire Station; purchase of the Westsound Fire Station; construction of the Deer Harbor Fire Station; the purchase of six fire engines, two tanker trucks, and a rescue truck; enhancement of benefits for the volunteers of OIFR.

Administrative Assistant Lindsay Schirmer visited the Valley Regional Fire Authority to observe their operations and administrative practices.

I attended San Juan County Fire Chief’s meeting in Friday Harbor. Agenda items included 911 Communications and the public safety vessel grant.

Sally Kass has been hired as the new District Financial Officer. She has a home in the Orcas Landing area and is in the process of moving here full time from California. She has extensive experience in all areas of business administration.

Over the last nine months since you hired me, I have been evaluating the overall performance and reliability of our great organization. I am proud and grateful to be a member of OIFR, as I think we accomplish great things. Part of my analysis has been the comprehensive evaluation of the division chief program. While I believe the people who are the division chiefs are amazing professionals for whom I hold a high level of respect, I have come to the conclusion that the program does not achieve the best results for our operations. With the support of our commissioners, we will be making some organizational changes targeted for Jan. 1, 2013: the division chief program will end.

An organizational structure that I believe will best serve the people of Orcas Island is establishing an assistant chief to help me in managing our operations. I am pleased to announce that Division Chief Mik Preysz has accepted the position. Mik is an excellent chief officer with many years of experience in public service. His new position will begin on Jan. 1 and he will maintain his paramedic certification.

An announcement for the full time firefighter/maintenance technician is being advertised. After testing and interviews, I hope to have the position filled by Feb. 1.

Captain Chad Kimple and Lieutenant Rich Harvey have been commissioned in an acting capacity. They have received promotions to “tenured” positions.

Orcas Island Fire and Rescue is proud to announce the recruitment of 22 new members who will begin their training this week at “Recruit Orientation.”

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