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Longtime Chief Retires
Pullman, WA, Fire Chief Pat Wilkins has retired after serving the fire department for more than 40 years, with 27 of those years as its chief. Wilkins was instrumental in a number of programs that helped the city achieve an improved fire rating from class 5 to class 4, which resulted in lower fire insurance premiums for both homeowners and businesses. He also was a leader in establishing a paramedic program for the city.
One of the significant challenges that Wilkins worked on during his years with the city was assumption of the EMS and fire services for the university when the Washington State University (WSU) administration chose to dissolve its fire department. For a period of time, Wilkins served as chief of both the WSU and Pullman fire departments.
Wilkins worked on getting voter approval for the creation of an EMS levy that the voters later made a permanent EMS levy. He helped on a levy that added three additional firefighters/paramedics and three additional police officers. He also worked on funding agreements with WSU, rural fire districts, other communities and Pullman Regional Hospital. One of those agreements with WSU jointly funded the pumper-ladder truck that was delivered in 2004.
In order to improve response times to the growing north area of the city, Wilkins facilitated the reorganization of the department, created the position of fire lieutenant and staffed the north area station with career firefighters.
Wilkins served on the Whitcom (the area 911 dispatch center) executive board, the Whitman County Communications Committee and was a member of the Washington Fire Chiefs Association. He was also involved in a number of community and service groups including Rotary, the Pullman Cougar Club, Shriners, and the Salvation Army.
Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson appointed Operations Chief Mike Heston as the Acting Fire Chief effective August 10. The process for selecting a permanent Fire Chief will begin in a few weeks with the intention of having the permanent fire chief on duty in January.
Mexican firefighters recently took part in a week of specialized training as part of the Bombero Program. About 50 firefighters from Mexico – called Bomberos in Mexico – participated in this year’s program. Each year the site of the training rotates between Northern California and Southern California. Instructors from San Bernardino County Fire, San Bernardino City, Cathedral City and Riverside City Fire Departments, as well as CalFire focused this year’s training on Incident Command, Ventilation, Structure Collapse, and Rapid Intervention Crew tactics/Mayday.
The Bombero Program is a partnership between California and Mexican fire departments that started more than 45 years ago. Each year groups of firefighters from Mexico are brought to the United States for training, and thousands have graduated over the past three decades. The trips are free to the firefighters, and the program is funded by donations collected throughout the year.
The Bombero Program provides valuable firefighting tools and techniques to the firefighters of Mexico, in turn helping them provide their citizens with better fire protection. This chosen group of Bomberos then returns to their homeland to share what they have learned with their colleagues.
The Boys (and Girls) of Summer
The Fire Science Division of Rockingham Community College in Wentworth, NC, just completed a Firefighter I & II class. The program was attended by 15 high school students who gave up their summer to pursue their education to become firefighters, according to Lisa King, Director of Public Safety at Rockingham.
Captain Jeff Walker of The City of Reidsville Fire Department, who is also employed by Rockingham Community College as a part-time Fire and Rescue instructor, helped run the class.
The program ran for eight weeks and all the classes were taught under the North Carolina Firefighter I & II State outlines. Upon completion of the course, each student received credit for 17 of the 21 classes needed to obtain Firefighter I & II State certification.