NW Fire and Rescue adds 10 new firefighters
Fire Chief Tom Fields of North Whatcom Fire and Rescue (NWFR) completed a recently planned expansion in staffing with a recognition ceremony Monday night at the Birch Bay Fire Station. Three career firefighters were promoted to station captain, one to training captain, five were promoted to lieutenant and ten new firefighters graduated from the NWFR academy, joining 16 other recent graduates from last March and from the previous year.
The additions bring the total number of paid staff for the nearly 200-square mile fire district to 45, 36 of whom are line personnel. Stations 71 in Lynden, 61 in Blaine and 63 in Birch Bay are now staffed 24/7 with a shift captain or lieutenant and three firefighters each, and Fields has said he wants to put night staff at the Semiahmoo station as well. The numbers assigned to shifts reflect regulations about the minimum number of qualified firefighters required on duty in order to operate certain kinds of firefighting equipment.
The personnel expansion began in March of 2006 with the hiring of firefighters John Hollstein, Doug Kreider, Adam Smith and Jason Adams. Six months later firefighters Chuck Shipp and Chris Foy were added. Then last February ten more firefighters completed training, including Jason VanderVeen, Burr McPhail, Chris Hollander, Gina Ball, Thomas(TJ) Holert, Jason VanDyken, DJ Riehl, Russ Briskin, Troy Freeman and Shaun Ward.
Last Monday’s class, which began work Tuesday morning of this week, included firefighters Mark Wohlrab, Matt Bowden, Scott Brown, Tony Esser, Blake Scott, Doug Clark, Dan Jensen, Jason Donnelly, Mike Lyshol and Mike Ross.
Fields promoted four firefighters to the rank of Captain, including Ray Davidson, Murray Folk, Mike Schmidt and training Captain Craig Johnson. Five joined Lt. Keith Zylstra as department lieutenants including Leslee Smith, Mike Nelson, Jim Bleecker, Kevin Biery and Joel Nielsen.
Ball and Smith are the only female career firefighters currently serving with NWFR. Smith also serves as the department’s public information officer. In addition to Chief Fields, whose office is at the Birch Bay station, NWFR’s administrative staff includes Division Chief of Training John Swobody, Assistant Chief Henry Hollander and five support staff, including assistant to the chief Jane VandenBos, financial administrator Benita Williams, data management specialist Danielle Mack, office aide Alice O’Gorman and lead mechanic Elliot Courage.