Volunteer firefighter programs expanded for Tri-District

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A series of new programs are expanding the opportunities for area citizens to become fire department volunteers.

For the first time, the combined fire districts 12, 20 and East Pierce Fire and Rescue, known as the Tri-District, are breaking down the job of volunteer firefighter into several specialized areas. In addition to the regular volunteer firefighting opportunities, residents can become volunteer emergency medical technicians (EMTs), support personnel or special operations team members.

"The new programs break the job of firefighter and emergency responder into subsets to allow more people the opportunity to participate," Tri-District Volunteer Chief Jake Doty said. "Volunteer firefighting is getting so complex and regulations are so involved, many citizens can't volunteer because of the time commitment. These programs will reduce the number of hours required to become a volunteer."

Doty was recently named Volunteer Chief for the Tri-District.

"People can now pick a field and become a specialist in that area," he said.

Volunteer programs provide an important resource in communities that include a combination of suburban and rural settings. The programs also place trained personnel in the community to assist career firefighters responding to 9-1-1 emergencies. For some, it provides a transition to a career in the fire department.

The EMT volunteers will learn emergency medical skills to assist paramedics, while special operations volunteers will respond to wild land fires or water rescues.

Support volunteers will learn to fill the air bottles firefighters wear, practice scene management and drive support vehicles.

"We have a real need for drivers," Doty said.

Training has begun for the new EMS volunteers, and will be available on an on-going basis. Classes for support and special operations training begin this summer.

Volunteers must be 18 years or older, possess a high school diploma or GED, have a Washington State driver's license and live within 10 minutes of the boundaries of Tri-District, an area that covers Lake Tapps to Wilkeson and from the borders of Sumner to Buckley. A background check will also be conducted.

All volunteers are provided equipment and insurance. Trained volunteers who respond to calls are also eligible for a retirement plan.

Classes are offered weekly at station 12-1, 10515 234th Ave. E., in Buckley.

Once qualified, volunteers receive a stipend of $10 per drill and $6 per call to reimburse them for their expenses.

Following the initial training, volunteers participate in on-going drills.

Interested residents are invited to attend volunteer training classes to observe before making a commitment.

The new programs offer an opportunity for area residents who wish to become volunteers.

"Fewer than a dozen fire departments in Washington State are doing this," Doty said.

Applications are available at area fire stations or by calling 253-863-1800.

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