Volunteers question how new fire service will work

Published on Thu, Aug 16, 2001 by Jack Kintner

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Volunteers question how new fire service will work

By Jack Kintner

“If you want your solutions to these concerns and not someone else’s, you’ve got to come to the table now. Once we have this in place next year, I won’t tolerate people out there dishing up complaints after the fact,” said Mike Campbell, new chief of North Whatcom Fire & Rescue Services (NWFRS).

Two weeks ago the NWFRS board of directors, stunned with the resignation of chief Dave England, recessed their meeting before getting to most of that evening’s agenda. Last week, with successor Mike Campbell setting a decisive tone, they worked quickly to complete their unfinished business and move on.

The most important item from the previous week was adoption of the volunteer management and integration plan to develop and implement a unified volunteer policy for all three fire districts by June of next year. The board told Campbell to write the initial draft of the plan well before he was named chief on July 31.

Campbell had asked the previous week for written comments from volunteers on a draft of the proposal and received seven detailed responses. He condensed them into nine comments or questions, five of which came from district 3. Most dealt with chain-of-command questions although two related explicitly to a perceived lack of information in saying “we were told nothing would change” and “I do not feel the pamphlet the chief provided to us gives enough information about what’s going on.”

Campbell’s answer to the first was to ask the volunteers directly, “What’s changed at your local station because of the agreement that created the NWFRS?” There was no response, after which he added, “Nothing has changed, yet, and it won’t without consensus.”

In discussing the second comment, Campbell acknowledged improvements in communication could always be made, especially in dealing with rumors.

Though clearly interested in a consensus model, Campbell strongly reminded the volunteers present of their responsibility to participate in the process, saying “it’s your document, so let’s put it together your way.” There are currently “15 to 20” volunteers interested in doing so, Campbell said later, and meetings will begin shortly as soon as a schedule can be drawn up.

The board adjourned after adopting a schedule of meetings every second Thursday, the site rotating among the three districts. The next meeting will be at the Point Roberts Community Center on September 13. .

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