S.E. Thurston Fire & EMS Chief Rita Hutcheson
Ed. Note: I asked S.E. Thurston Fire & EMS Chief Rita Hutcheson if she would share her recent column published in the NVN with Yelm Community Blog readers, a different audience than the NVN.
This is an important story that all area citizens should be aware.
Here is Chief Hutcheson’s report, in her own words:
Dear Citizens of S.E. Thurston Fire & EMS,
During the most challenging economic times in recent memory, both labor and management of S.E. Thurston Fire & EMS have worked through many issues this past year. These include opening a new staffed station in Rainier, hiring a new firefighter and consolidating resources to form a regional fire authority.
This has come with sacrifice. Our firefighters have not seen any general wage increases in three years and have agreed not to see one until 2011. This has put firefighters for S.E. Thurston Fire & EMS the lowest paid among comparable departments in the region. While the economy has slowed, calls for service have not. Fire crews face different challenges every day. From the medical calls to the car accidents and the structure fires to the technical rescue, crews are highly trained and prepared to serve.
The administration is also faced with challenges. Due to these harsh economic times, revenue was down in 2010 for the first time in thirteen years. In addition, the department has been in the process of replacing aging apparatus. The primary response engine in Rainier has over 106,000 miles logged (usually, this would send an engine into reserve status). Due to maintenance during the year, on duty firefighters have been left at times with no back up engine. New and updated laws and regulations will have the department needing to soon replace vital firefighting tools such as self contained breathing apparatus (SCBAs) and technical rescue equipment. We are hoping to acquire some of this equipment with grants.
Amidst these challenging times there are signs of hope not only for our department but for the community at large. Local construction is back on the rise. Businesses are moving to Yelm once again. Recently, ground breaking ceremonies took place in Yelm for a new medical facility. S.E. Thurston Fire & EMS will soon be known as S.E. Thurston Fire Authority after last Februarys vote. This formation will have benefits such as being able to purchase medical insurance for our employees at a discounted rate. Both labor and management are committed to being fiscally responsible with your tax dollars to ensure our community receives the highest quality emergency services possible. As the Yelm and Rainier area grows, so will S.E. Thurston Fire ready to serve in your time of need.
In Your Service,
The Labor/Management Team
Spring is here and with the beautiful weather comes more children on bicycles. Please make sure they stay safe by knowing the rules of the road and always wearing a bike helmet. Bike helmets are available at the fire station located at 709 Mill Road, Yelm for a donation of $5.00. We also have a program available for those who cannot afford the $5.00 donation. It is important all bike riders wear a helmet.