Chelan Fire District extends seasonal employees to December 31

by Richard Uhlhorn

This image is from the 1990 Labor Day Fire on Chelan Butte. Chelan Butte has burned numerous times since 1990 including the 1994 TYEE Complex and the devastating 2015 Chelan Complex Fire.

“Everyone is back from State Mob,” said Chelan Fire Chief Mark Donnell during is monthly Fire Chief Report. The major incidents fire crews were mobilized for included the September 9 Pearl Hill and Apple Acres fires. Chelan crews were also mobilized for other wild fires outside of the area in both Washington and California. Asked how much mobilization will bring into the District, Chief Donnell said, “About $204,000 which will over wages and overtime coverage.” About $94,000 of those mobilization funds were for equipment and that money will be put in the District’s Capital Apparatus Fund.

Chief Donnell reported that the EMS call out for September included the following:

  • Advanced Life Support            14        Year to Date    123
  • Basic Life Support                   23        Year to Date    184
  • No Transport                          19        Year to Date    188
  • TOTAL                                   56                                495

The District is losing or has lost two career firefighters this month. Samantha Raines has resigned her position for medical reasons and Troy Keene was injured and will probably not be able to return to duty until the end of December. “His injury is covered by Labor and Industries,” said Donnell

The Board agreed to extend the employment of its seasonal employees until December 31 which will fill the vacated positions until permanent employees are hired. This will cost the District $39,000 in wages and benefits. “Our seasonals have been stepping up to the plate,” said Donnell. “It has been a tremendous benefit to the District.” The seasonal employees have manned and responded to incidents while some District career and volunteer fire fighters have been on State Mobilization.

Chief Donnell stated that both of the seasonal employees are in consideration for permanent employment. “We’ve been please with their performance.” However, Donnell told the board that he is going to open the positions up to a bigger pool and look at five to eight candidates.

On the health side of the coin, Chief Donnell stated that some of the District’s employees are coming down with flu symptoms. The District has been training with members of Orondo, Manson and Entiat. Manson had a positive COVID, but Donnell said that tests had everyone come back negative. The District also has self-administered tests on hand that were provided by the State. Any positive results will be reported to the State Department of Health.

Assistant Chief Brandon Asher reported that he has two new volunteer recruits; one in Orondo and one in Entiat. he also reported that since the wildfire season is over, it is time for the District to begin its structural training.

Asher is submitting a $12,000 grant request to the DNR. “We’ve gotten it two years in a row and if we get it again, it will give us an option to pick up another wildland chassis.”

Dan Crandall reported on the Firefighters Association activity. He stated that despite not being able to have in-person meetings the Association has been busy.

The Association has donated $5,000 to the Okanogan Long Term Recovery effort, another $1,000 to Chelan Valley Hope, and $1,000 to the young couple that lost their child and were severely burned in the Cold Springs Fire.

They began the month with $44,272 and with the $6,000 donated are down to $38,272.

Chief Donnell stated the District and City have been trying to negotiate a contract for City services. “We are not getting a lot of help from the City,” said Chief Donnell, but admitted that the City has been apologetic and swamped with work. “I don’t expect anything until the end of the year.”

The District is looking at 30 parcels for annexation this year and into 2021. “Most of them are in Knapps Coulee, and area we respond to.” He hopes to have the annexations completed by next February.

The Board of Commissioners decided on holding a Virtual Public Meeting on Monday, November 9 on the District’s Budget Process. More information on accessing this meeting will be forthcoming soon. “We need to get more people engaged.”

During Commissioner comments, Karyl Oules asked how the Hospital issues and EMS not being included in the new hospital plans affects the District? “How does that impact us,” she asked.

Chief Donnell replied that EMS has always been welcomed at the station. He has a meeting set up with Ray Eickmeyer, EMS Director next week. “The Hospital is very reluctant to give up EMS,” said Donnell. “We work directly with them.” He stated that a decision needs to be made on what kind of EMS system the community wants. Seventy percent of all EMS systems are Fire District based, stated Donnell. Oules replied that open communications with them is important.

The District will be sending out information on a Virtual Public Meeting next week to let the public know about its proposed 2021 Budget which has to be completed by the end of November.

The District’s regular board meetings are held on the 4th Wednesday of each month beginning at 3 p.m. The Public is encouraged to attend. More information concerning the District’s activities can be found on its webpage at http://www.chelan7.com.

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