It was a busy summer for the Key Peninsula Fire Department.
According to Chief Guy Allen, the department responded to a record number of 911 calls in July ––256 –– and a near record in August.
The local calls weren’t just because of the hot dry summer and increased fire danger, he said.
“We had a handful of grass and brush fires but not a huge amount. But as the economy improves, people become more active and the population on the Peninsula increases in the summer months because this is a fun place to be with all our parks and marine activities.
“In the summer, there’s more people and people bring 911 calls, unfortunately,”he said. Add to that the fact that KPFD sent equipment and firefighters to help fight the blazes in eastern Washington.
The department sent a brush engine with a career firefighter and a volunteer to the Chelan Complex fire for 21 days. And A KPFD structure engine with a career firefighter and a volunteer was in Okanagan for about two weeks, he said.
The good side of that is that the brush engine makes $61.50 per hour for the department and the structure engine makes $131.50 per hour. “It’s the one time a vehicle actually makes money for our district,”Allen said.
Still that’s a lot of work for an organization that relies in large part on volunteers, which is why Allen is currently in recruitment mode to sign up volunteer firefighters, especially in the Longbranch area and on Herron Island.
There’s a critical need for at least six volunteers at the Longbranch station, Allen said.
“If we don’t get six volunteers out of the Longbranch station area, then that area of our district will most likely get defaulted to a Class 9 rating –and that’s not good.”
That will probably nearly double the homeowners’annual insurance premiums because anyone who lives more than five miles from a fully staffed fire station pays much higher insurance rates.
“Anybody who lives more than five driving miles from the Home fire station, they’re going to be defaulted to a nine rating if we can’t show that we have a minimum of six volunteers in the Longbranch station,”he said.
Currently one volunteer lives within five miles of the Longbranch station. The Assistant Fire Chief also lives within five miles of the station.
“And that’s it,”Allen said. “Those two people are all we will get credit for.”
The situation is similar on Herron Island, where six volunteers are also needed. Herron Island volunteers must actually live on the island, he said.
The qualifications are fairly simple. Volunteers must to be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, have no criminal record and have a Washington State driver’s license, Allen said.
“And they need a willingness to sacrifice time and energy to be part of the organization. It’s a big time commitment.”
The Key Peninsula Fire Department was founded in 1952 by a group of people who decided they didn’t want to rely on the Gig Harbor and Tacoma fire departments to come out to the Peninsula.
“They decided that we needed to help ourselves,”Allen said. “There’s a rich history of community volunteerism out here, and we’re going to need volunteer support out here forever, because we just don’t have the money to pay full-time firefighters.”
Volunteers get a small stipend of $52 per shift. They must do 36 hours of on-shift work per month, he said.
Volunteer recruitment is open through the end of October. For information, call Chief Allen at (253) 884-2222.