San Juan fire crew heads east

When the 10 p.m. ferry sailed from Friday Harbor on Wednesday night, Sept. 7, 2011 a San Juan Island Fire Rescue crew was aboard with their wildland fire engine. They were heading to the mainland to become part of a "Strike Team" of five fire engines drawn from Whatcom and Snohomish Counties.

Their destination is Kickitat County, to help fight the nearly 1,000 acre "Monastery" fire. They traveled through the night in order to be ready to be assigned to the fire line at 6 a.m. today.

Lieutenant Michael Henderson and Firefighter Gilbert Venegas may be away as long as a week fighting the fire which has already caused evacuations outside the town of Goldendale. If the assignment extends beyond seven days, a relief crew may be sent.

As in many wildland fires, local people do what they can to save their own community, In Goldendale, home to St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Monastery, several of the nuns dressed in traditional habits were armed with charged hoses dousing the outskirts of the fire. PHOTOS on KOMO website

San Juan Island Fire Rescue participates in the Statewide Mobilization System, run by the Washington State Patrol. The system allows for resources from throughout the state to be sent to a major fire. The benefit to San Juan Island is that local crews gain valuable experience that they can share with their fellow firefighters when they return. It is also comforting to know that the system stands ready to send help to the island should it ever be needed.

SAN JUAN ISLAND FIRE RESCUE: San Juan Island Fire Rescue serves Pearl, Brown and San Juan Islands, including the Town of Friday Harbor. The fire district is predominantly staffed by volunteer firefighters, who are paid a small hourly rate when actively engaged as a firefighter. The district operates eight fire stations located throughout San Juan Island and Brown Island. The fire district also provides wildland fire protection to San Juan County's outer islands though a contract with Washington's Department of Natural Resources. The fire district responded to 207 calls in 2010. As of August 31, 2011, it had already exceeded that call volume.

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