No worries, it was just a fire drill | Life in Ludlow

Ned Luce
Posted 10/6/22

The week started with a fire drill! 

Actually, I did go to a fire drill. A recent meeting with Fire Chief Bret Black resulted in an invitation to go on a “ride along” with a …

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No worries, it was just a fire drill | Life in Ludlow


The week started with a fire drill! 

Actually, I did go to a fire drill. A recent meeting with Fire Chief Bret Black resulted in an invitation to go on a “ride along” with a battalion chief in the East Jefferson Fire and Rescue agency. I got a phone call from Justin Fletcher inviting me to join him early Monday morning last week. The only downside was that his mornings seem to start earlier than mine, so I was up and out to meet him at 8 a.m. at the station in Chimacum. Thank goodness for black coffee. 

The first thing Justin and I did was agree to what our perceptions of a “ride-along” entailed. 

As you probably know, Port Ludlow Fire & Rescue gets operational management from East Jefferson Fire Rescue. At 8:30 a.m. Justin led a “Zoom” call with several fire and rescue leaders including Lieutenant Wicus McGuffey from Port Ludlow Fire & Rescue. The meeting was held to review the administrative items anyone of us remembers from similar meetings in our careers such as who is on duty and what are we going to do today. 

Shortly thereafter, Justin and I were on our way to the station adjacent to the Jefferson County “dump” in Port Townsend. A structure constructed primarily of 10 used steel shipping containers is near the station and, after some modifications, is used by the fire agencies for training. 

After a short meeting and some drill preparation, Justin and I retired back to the chief’s bright red pickup truck to coordinate the drill. He coordinated, I watched! 

Justin developed a fire scenario duplicating a potential real local location and then managed a drill as if he was a 911 emergency operator. He provided location and emergency specifics as he dispatched units to fight the fire, rescue inhabitants, treat victims, etc. I watched quietly as 17 firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics worked to respond to the situation being outlined by Justin. I also remembered a very different experience I had during firefighting training at Great Lakes Naval Training Center back in the middle of the last century. Another story. 

The drill lasted roughly 30 minutes and concluded when the simulated situation was under control with the fire subdued, the victim removed and treated. All the participants gathered for a review of the drill with a particular emphasis on what was done wrong and how the mistakes could have been either avoided or rectified. Frankly, this was the most impressive part of the morning for me as I saw these people identifying how their own impressive performance could have been done better. 

They spent 45 minutes answering each other’s questions and soliciting suggestions for improvement. Justin told me they do a drill of some kind every day. 

I, maybe like you, worry not too much about some things I should worry about such as the responses to my emergencies by capable people. Justin and his colleagues at the fire agencies are some of those people. Justin has been in the business for 18 years and knew when he graduated from high school in Port Angeles that this was what he wanted to do. He participated in a two-year “intern” program that qualified him to be a firefighter. Wicus McGuffey has been in the business for 20 years. 

I am optimistic I have shared with you my confidence in these good people to provide help in your emergency, whatever that may be. As with most organizations these days the East Jefferson fire and rescue agencies need more people beyond the four interns serving and learning. They also need volunteers with specialized and physical skills to help. 

No matter, I submit these are really good people! Heck, I think I heard one of them ask me how firemen and cops are similar to each other? The answer is that both groups aspire to be firefighters. 

Sports news was great over the weekend. Seahawks won. Chiefs won. Mariners are in the playoffs. Wabash won and so did DePauw. 

Love a curmudgeon and have a great week. 

(Ned Luce is a retired IBM executive and Port Ludlow resident. Contact Ned at