Response to Orcas Fire Department coverage

To the Islands’ Sounder:

I would respectfully submit that, in regard to the Orcas Island Fire Department, you are not doing your job. You damn us with faint praise in your editorials, then fail to do the fact checking required to present your readers with a balanced view of what is actually going on. As a citizen, taxpayer and 70-year-old serving volunteer on the Fire Department, I find that your editorials and coverage of the Board of Fire Commissioners meetings amount to a fifth column assault on the only emergency medical and fire suppression organization close enough to be of any use to our citizens.

At the board meetings, we have been forced to listen to ugly outbursts from people who presume to lecture our elected commissioners on the fundamentals of management. Ironically, all of the commissioners are experienced businessmen, well known in the Orcas community for their professional acumen and ethics. This is painful to watch. Worse, we cannot look to the editor of our newspaper to report this vituperative behavior.

The unreasoned anger of the citizens who idealize the past and sunny slopes of long ago does not recognize that the Orcas Island Fire Department must build and train in the present to be ready to respond to the increasing demands of the future. The Fire Department Bond Issue was passed by the public several years ago to pay for that preparedness. You are well aware of this, but say nothing to support it in the newspaper. While the process of implementing the goals and objectives of the Long Range Planning Committee, which took eight months to produce, is aborning beautifully and efficiently, you are demanding busily that all must be complete with a snap of the fingers. This is the action of a petulant child demanding instant gratification.

Your attempt to drive wedges between the commissioners, the full-time professionals, and the volunteers falls flat because we are all the Fire Department.

Our task organized, mission focused, combination of high skill professionals and volunteer department is among the best outfits with which I have ever served, and we are cost effective. You failed to note that the financial report of July 8, 2008 states: “at the half-year mark, 41 percent of the operating budget for the year has been spent.” We are 9 percent under-budget. Be advised, this is not my first experience with public service.

You might consider shifting your editorial stance to that of a balanced and well informed reporter whose goal is to inform our bright and well read public, rather than advocating for a handful of the professionally unhappy. If this position offends your sense of journalistic ethics, perhaps you should seek other employment.

You buy ink by the barrel, but ink does not put out fires or provide emergency medical care for a growing island population at least an hour away from outside help.

James R. Scheib is a Fire Fighter/EMT with the Orcas Island Fire Department.