Firefighters celebrate successes

Published on Thu, Mar 14, 2002 by Jack Kintner

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Firefighters celebrate successes

By Jack Kintner

Fire district 13 marked its first year as part of North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Service at its annual award banquet last Saturday. A crowd of over 100 firefighters and their families and friends gathered at Latitude 49 in Birch Bay.

Guest speaker Tim Birr spoke about the benefits of evolving fire consolidation. Birr is a division chief with Tualitin Valley, Oregon, Fire & Rescue, created ten years ago much like the North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Service (NWFRS) out of three separate fire districts.

Birr was asked to speak on how their consolidation had developed. “Once the three fire departments got beyond being three different cultures,” Birr said, “we were able to thrive in what is a surprisingly competitive environment.”

Birr said they now cover eight cities and have contracts to serve two more, competing successfully with private companies by working “faster, cheaper and better. We can’t get much faster or cheaper, so now we focus on better, which translates into better training and bend over backward customer service.” As an example, Birr cited a recent effort by firefighters Henry Hollander and Leslee Smith of the Birch Bay station who replaced a door that was too narrow for the wheelchair of a disabled Birch Bay man at no cost to him.

NWFRS chief Mike Campbell prefaced the awards part of the evening with a word of appreciation for the families who support the firefighters. In return for “a few more hours” of their time, Campbell offered certificates so “you can pick a day to fill with honey-do’s and turn that pager off for once,” a remark greeted with thunderous applause. Nolan Vance, an ice cream distributor from Everett who keeps district 13’s freezer well-stocked, was given $25 to take girlfriend and Birch Bay station volunteer Lindsay McDonald out to eat.

Retiring firefighters Bill Salter, Paul Tremlin, Pat Miller and Jerry Lindal were acknowledged with a presentation box containing an American flag along with uniform emblems and awards won over their years of service. The evening’s final award was the first medal of valor ever awarded by district 13, given to Blaine station Captain Dave Notar for preventing a man from stabbing a local policeman during an arrest. In making the presentation Campbell said, “Are these aid calls dangerous? Absolutely. But we’re here to protect life, and that’s what Dave did,” as the crowd rose to its feet for a standing ovation.

Following a video review of the year put together by Jennie Sand, people were invited to stick around for music by chief Campbell and the “No Talent” band that also included division chief Jim Rutherford and firefighter Andrew Fuller, who brought along two other members of his band called the Fairlanes, Phil Arnett and Cory DeMent.
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