Longtimedivision chief resigns

Published on Thu, Feb 16, 2006 by ack Kintner

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Longtime division chief resigns

By Jack Kintner

The North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services (NWFRS) board considered the resignation of a long-time division chief and honored three local people for saving the lives of three boys caught in a burning car at their regular monthly board meeting this week.
Jim Rutherford, a NWFRS division chief and Whatcom County Fire District 13 career firefighter for the past nine years submitted a letter of resignation to NWFRS Chief Tom Fields on Monday.

“We received chief Rutherford’s letter and will be dealing with it in executive session at tonight’s meeting, and the [NWFRS] board will determine later exactly how this vacancy will be filled,” Fields said on Monday, shortly after receiving Rutherford’s letter. After that night’s executive session the board re-convened to publicly accept Rutherford’s resignation and thank him for his nine years of service.
Rutherford said he’s leaving the department now in order to continue undergraduate course work in business management at the University of Phoenix, leading to a bachelor of arts degree in business management. “I can do quite a bit on-line but I’m the kind of guy that needs the teacher-student interface, so it’s a good time for me to make this change to allow me to be on campus to focus on my course work.”

Rutherford, 51, retired from the Navy as a senior chief quartermaster assigned as assistant navigator to the Trident submarine USS Michigan prior to joining the Bangor Fire Department in 1992. He joined District 13 in 1997 as a training captain. Jim said that he and his wife Barbara will remain in the area for the time being.

As the board meeting began, Fields called Anthony Lopez, John George and his mother Sue George forward and gave each a plaque inscribed “Community Life Safety Award” stemming from their actions last December 18 on the shoulder of the southbound lanes of I-5 just north of Birch Bay-Lynden Road exit 270.

Lopez, in his car with his wife and son, and the Georges in their SUV were passed by a Toyota sedan driving erratically. The car suddenly veered off to the right shoulder and rolled over at least eight times, hitting the ground occasionally as it spun before ending on its wheels.
A small fire began to burn in the engine compartment as Lopez and Sue George struggled to get the occupants out of the front seat. They were then joined by John George, who works and plays hockey at the Bellingham Ice Arena, and together they managed to get all three boys out through the car windows as gasoline spilled on to the grass around the car and into the interior began to accelerate the fire.

By the time the three had pulled the three boys safely away the fire was growing rapidly. The car didn’t explode, but Lopez said shortly afterward that “when we got them away we turned around and it just went whoosh!”

The boys were evacuated to St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham but aside from one broken arm they suffered only minor injuries.