News updates from Orcas Fire and Rescue

Submitted by Kim Kimple.

Point Lawrence Road fire

Crews were dispatched to reports of a structure fire in the 900-block of Point Lawrence Road shortly after 4:00 a.m. on Dec. 4 after neighbors reported smoke and flames from the residence.

Arriving personnel confirmed the structure was fully engulfed and initiated a defensive-only attack on the structure, while protecting exposures. Water was supplied by an area hydrant. There were no casualties and no injuries reported. The structure was a complete loss. Due to suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire, the investigation on the fire was coordinated between the San Juan County Fire Marshal and San Juan County Sheriff’s Office. It was deemed not suspicious.

Eastman Road fire

Crews were dispatched to a confirmed structure fire in the 300-block of Teal Lane after a homeowner woke to find flames engulfing the contents of his room on Dec. 5. The homeowner called 9-1-1 and evacuated as the fire spread quickly. Initial personnel on scene found the home fully involved with fire and determined a defensive-only attack would be implemented. Crews were met with challenging conditions as the home was located down a long and narrow driveway with no hydrant access. Firefighters lay approximately 2,000-feet of large diameter hose in order to deliver water to the residence. Water access was made by a water shuttle using a tender and an engine that drew from a hydrant located in the area of the ferry landing. There were no casualties or injuries reported. The structure was a complete loss. The fire was determined to be accidental and was not connected to the December 4th fire.

In addition to the two fires, emergency responders handled several overlapping critical calls over the weekend.

Christmas day calls

Crews were hit with a double-tap on Dec. 26 when a critical medical call toned out while crews were on the scene of a motor vehicle accident in the Rosario/Olga Road area.

Fire-Medic Lieutenant Conrad and Lieutenant Ybarra were able to clear the accident while additional personnel remained at the accident. The crew quickly arrived on the nearby medical call to find a critically ill patient in need of immediate emergent care.

Due to severe inclement weather, air medical resources were unable to respond for patient transport. Lieutenant Conrad immediately recognized the critical nature of the call and was able to deliver lifesaving treatment, working to stabilize the patient while simultaneously advocating for transport by requesting a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter. The crew worked with the support of volunteer responders to transport the patient to Eastsound Airport to await the arrival of the Coast Guard. Committed to keeping an Advanced Life Support care provider on-island at all times, Conrad remained on the island to ensure continued coverage while Fire-Medic Chief Williams accompanied the patient to the hospital for additional treatment.

New assistant chief hired

After several months of searching, Orcas Island Fire and Rescue’s new Assistant Fire Chief hits the ground running.

There’s a little something in the fire service known as a ‘black cloud’. While generally not a bad thing, someone who is named as a black cloud typically inherits the title after a high volume of intense or strange medical and fire calls develop anywhere they go.

Last week, as our new Assistant Chief, Holly vanSchaick, stepped off the boat and into our lives, we quickly began to wonder if perhaps we had our very own black cloud.

In a span of just 18-hours during one of vanSchaick’s first inaugural days, the department experienced an unusually high number of calls, including two back-to-back structure fires and several overlapping critical aid calls.

Working alongside Battalion Chief, Bryce Hamilton, Assistant Chief vanSchaick didn’t miss a beat. With fourteen years of paramedic and firefighting experience under her belt, vanSchaick geared up and got right to work.

A natural addition to the team, vanSchaick handled each call with a collaborative approach to teamwork, bringing critically vital knowledge of emergency services, and guiding each incident response with strong leadership.

So, do we have our very own black cloud? Is it all just superstition? Perhaps. Time will tell. Either way, we’re glad she’s here.

Welcome to the Orcas Island Fire and Rescue family, Assistant Chief Holly!

Other new personnel

The district is also welcoming two new members among the career ranks – more to come! Applications are still being accepted while the department builds an eligibility list for FF/Paramedic and FF/EMT.

Volunteer opportunities

Orcas Island Fire and Rescue has several new members gearing up for EMT and Firefighter academies starting in January. Our next round of volunteer opportunities is open for those interested in joining the department. OIFR will be hosting a Responder Academy soon, which is a great way to learn the ropes, gain an understanding of the response structure of the department and provide a support role on emergency calls with the opportunity to transition into other disciplines such as EMT, Firefighter, Rescue, and more in the future. If you’re interested in learning more about the upcoming Responder Academy, email Kim at