Structure fire transpires while department stretched thin

Leader News Staff
news@ptleader.com
Posted 11/23/22

A “first alarm” structure fire followed by a series of other 911 calls had firefighters at their limit last week.

Callers described the fire on Lillian Street in Port Hadlock on …

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Structure fire transpires while department stretched thin

A workshop alongside a home and travel trailer caught fire on the night of Nov. 15.
A workshop alongside a home and travel trailer caught fire on the night of Nov. 15.
Photo courtesy of East Jefferson Fire Rescue
Posted

A “first alarm” structure fire followed by a series of other 911 calls had firefighters at their limit last week.

Callers described the fire on Lillian Street in Port Hadlock on Tuesday, Nov. 15 as a fully involved structure fire, triggering an immediate “first alarm” as well as mutual-aid, recall of volunteers and off-duty personnel.

Battalion Chief Jason MacDonald from East Jefferson Fire Rescue was the first to arrive and found the workshop on fire and threatening the adjacent house as well as a travel trailer. He declared a defensive strategy to protect the house, directing the firefighters to extend a supply line from Rhody Drive down Lillian Street.

East Jefferson Fire Rescue Chief Black described the firefight as “well-coordinated.”

“The first arriving units were by themselves for a while due to travel times; they had a lot to do,” Black said.

“It’s pretty impressive that we got water on the fire within three minutes of arrival,” he added.

Firefighters were able to quickly control the fire within 12 minutes of arrival, keeping a majority of the damage confined to the shop.

East Jefferson Fire Rescue Engine 15 initiated the attack, while Engine 91 from Indian Island and Station 31 in Port Ludlow assisted.

The fire department said volunteers and mutual aid partners were pivotal in supporting the quick extinguishment of the fire, and officials noted that East Jefferson Volunteer Station 13 quickly staffed the district’s support unit, which was used to resupply the firefighters.

“The integration of volunteers and mutual-aid partners was seamless,” Black said.

At the same time, there were several other 911 calls impacting the department’s resources, including a medical call and a vehicle that rolled over.

“Last night’s surge in 911 calls left us at Status Zero for too long,” Black said. “We need more firefighters and paramedics.”

Status Zero is an industry term where all the available fire and emergency medical units are committed, leaving no one to respond to the next 911 call.

The department states that both East Jefferson and Port Ludlow are seeing a dramatic increase in calls, with simultaneous calls occurring more than one-third of the time. Port Ludlow has seen a 20 percent increase in 911 calls over 2021 so far this year.

Despite the tireless work of volunteers and mutual-aid responders, the department is struggling to meet demand during these peak events.

“We are at full staffing; all vacancies are filled,” Black added. “Our staffing and funding levels have not grown to keep up with the demand.”

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