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Home » Archives » January 2012 » Orcas Fire and Rescue - 2011 Review

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01/15/2012: "Orcas Fire and Rescue - 2011 Review"


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(OF&R file photo)


By Valerie Harris

Orcas Island Fire and Rescue has had a number of memorable events to mark in 2011. We had an opportunity create a display for the public, to report on the previous five years and demonstrate how the 2005 Strategic Plan was implemented.

The month long display was shown at the Orcas Center and mini versions were also shown at the Volunteer Association’s Pancake Breakfasts.

This summer the Ropes Rescue Team was given a huge training opportunity, thanks to a citizen benefactor. The team was able to travel to the Tetons in Wyoming and train to the next technical skill level, thanks to the generosity of Larry Taubman and his wife Loretta.

The department honored the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the fallen firefighters, with a ceremony and unveiling of the plan to build a permanent memorial at the District Headquarters. One of the fire department members drove his personal vehicle to New York and back to bring an artifact from the Twin Towers that will be incorporated in to the permanent memorial.

Also on September 11th, the new fire station in Deer Harbor was dedicated. It was the final piece of the Strategic Plan to be completed.

We held an educational haunted house on Halloween for the youngsters and hope to make that an annual event. We also entered a tree in to the “Festival of Trees” event at Rosario and the money gained from votes and our second place prize will go toward building the 9/11 memorial.

The fire department is a dynamic organization and we have lost some valuable members to relocation and new job opportunities. Those members will be sorely missed but we wish them all the very best of luck in their new ventures.

District Fire Chief Mike Harris also announced his retirement and the District is currently searching for his replacement now. There will be more about this in the upcoming weeks.

Even though we had losses, we did have gains. We welcomed several new members to our department and they are currently undergoing EMT training in Friday Harbor.

Our call volume is slightly down from 2010 but is above the last 5 year average of 665 combined fire and medical 911 calls. Here are the numbers:

911 calls - 684 (501
Medical 183 - Fire related calls
Medical Calls breakdown -The highest profile medical problems; cardiac, neurological emergencies such as strokes, and respiratory distress all came in fairly close at 7% cardiac, 6% neurological and 5% respiratory.

The bulk of the medical calls were lumped in to a “general medical” category and constituted 32% on medical calls. Pediatric patients are counted separately and 6% of calls were either pediatric medical or pediatric trauma.

Trauma is a heavy hitter with 22% of calls, bearing in mind that this is inclusive of all injuries minor to life threatening. Thankfully we have very few major traumas in any given year.

We respond to public need in the form of invalid assists or assisting with medical equipment, etc., 7.5% of the time.

We encountered obstetrical emergencies less than 1% and deaths 2% of the time. These numbers do not reflect accurate population growth numbers because most births associated with Orcas Island happen without the fire department’s involvement but nearly all deaths on the island involve us, even if there are no resuscitation efforts to be done.

Last but not least, 2% of our calls in 2011 were related to psychiatric problems.

Fire Related Call breakdown -The largest percentage of our fire related calls, which is nearly 40%, involved investigating reports of smoke, odors and dealing with illegal burns.

Another 25% of the calls we were responding to are automatic and audible alarms. We typically have more wildland fire than structure fires and 2011 was no different. We responded to burning land just shy of 3% and burning buildings 2% out of overall fire calls. Another 3% involves burning appliances or electrical fires that are extinguished before the building catches fire. Almost 4% of the fire calls were chimney fires that are out before catching the building on fire. Vehicle fires account for 2% and fuel or liquid fires another 1%. We even had 4% of calls qualifying as hazardous circumstance and less than 1% was one explosion.

Most of the motor vehicle crashes are accounted for in the medical calls but 6% of last year’s was non-injury motor vehicle crashes, where traffic- control and assistance to tow was needed. We assisted other agencies, such as the Sheriff’s Department, assisted the public, and looked for lost people 13% of the fire calls.

We look forward to serving our Orcas Island community in 2012!


( Valerie Harris is a Orcas Fire and Rescue Division Chief )

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