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Paramedic and Firefighter Association call for internal investigation of department | Guest column

  • Thu Oct 21st, 2021 1:30am
  • News

Submitted by the San Juan County Paramedic and Firefighter Association, IAFF Local 3911.

The San Juan County Paramedic and Firefighter Association, IAFF Local 3911, is a Labor Union, representing the professional career Paramedics, EMTs and Firefighters of Orcas Island Fire and Rescue.

In September at a membership meeting of IAFF Local 3911, the paramedics and firefighters in attendance, after much internal debate and considerations, voted unanimously to declare, “No Confidence” in OIFR Fire Chief Scott Williams. It is with a deep sense of responsibility to the public we serve, and our commitment to each other as protectors of this community, that we must publicly share this action by our members.

The Vote of No Confidence occurred on Sept. 14. The Fire Commission did not contact Local 3911 about this action for over three weeks, until Oct. 9. In response to this, Local 3911 communicated details about the Vote of No Confidence in correspondence with the Orcas Fire Commission on Oct. 18.

The paramedics and firefighters of OIFR believe this vote represents a failure of leadership and management in the fire district. It also represents an opportunity for a governance success story. It is the desire of every paramedic and firefighter of IAFF Local 3911 to work in an atmosphere of collaboration, mutual respect and a shared sense of purpose. While the reasons this labor body chose to proceed with this action are numerous, it is our continued desire to work to find solutions to the problems we have publicly raised. These concerns arise out of an abundance of frustration, exhaustion and concern for the public and our organization’s long-term health.

Therefore, the paramedics and firefighters of IAFF Local 3911 call on the Board of Fire Commissioners to facilitate an independent investigation, led by a mutually acceptable investigator, regarding the complaints made about OIFR Chief Williams and to report to the public, where allowed or permitted by law, the findings, and proposed actions to resolve these complaints.

Elected fire commissioners have clear expectations placed on them by the laws and statutes of Washington state for the role they play in representing the public interest. We take no pleasure in publicly airing these grievances but feel the avenues for communications are unbalanced due to the amount of participation our elected fire commissioners have in the day-to-day operations of this fire district.

Our love of Orcas, the people, this county and OIFR are our motivation for the work we do. We remain committed to serving island residents and visitors and will continue to work towards identifying solutions to problems and ensure your paramedics and firefighters always have a voice in improving the services, responses and the lives of those on Orcas Island.