Unhappy with OIFR board of commissioners | Letter to the Editor

Thank you Orcas Fire Rescue, for the excellent job done on Saturday’s wildland fire. Your quick actions led to another successful operation.

Now rewind to last Monday night, at the Board of Fire Commissioners (BOFC) meeting, where one commissioner said the board may need to consider a reduction in force (lay-offs). Seriously? Note that there are only two paid FF/EMS responders on duty at any given time, 24/7. The (full-time paid) firefighters and paramedics were also accused of being self-serving and “like Jimmy Hoffa.”

These mean-spirited and ill-informed comments were a knee-jerk reaction to strategically delivered partial information, offered by fire chief Scott Williams, regarding the hiring and use of outside “per-diem” fire/EMS workers. The commissioners are obsessed with making up for years of unspoken dissaving, from top-heavy administrative staff, inattention to apparatus replacement, and aging fire station entropy. But pennywise and dollar foolish, they have no regard for the human component of our great department. The department culture has become so toxic that OIFR is eating itself from the inside out. Morale is at an all-time low. The crews are so busy watching their backs, it is cutting into the bandwidth necessary to do their complex jobs. They are worried and fearful of retaliation.

Please attend the BOFC Zoom meetings, and insist that our news media attend them too. Bring back time for short and respectful public comment, beyond pre-delivered email. Insist on having a voice in your fire department, and your EMS medical safety net.

Patrick Shepler

Orcas Island