Washington Fire Chief Suspended Over Photo

Friday Harbor Fire Chief Vern Long was suspended for two days after photos posted on a news website showed a firefighter battling a car fire while not wearing his SCBA.

Lacher credited Long with "repairing" the relationship between the town and district fire departments. He helped oversee the celebration of the department's centennial. He's also a bargain finder: He bought a Jefferson County patrol car for use as his chief's car, for $2,000; and he bought a used fire engine from Oak Harbor for $4,500 to replace Engine 6.

But he took some heat for his purchase, approved 3-1 by the Town Council, of a new fire engine with compressed-air foam system for $580,000. Councilman Noel Monin, fire captain and maintenance supervisor for District 3, believed a less expensive fire engine could have been purchased. Fitch, Lacher and Long said the fire engine cost more because it needed to be modified to fit the bay in the fire station and needed to meet newer regulatory requirements, such as emissions standards and safety features.

Lacher called the current crisis a "dust up."

"It's to Vern's credit that he repaired the relationship with District 3 that Chief Marler was willing to cover for us and have our back," she said. Regarding potential merger of the administration of the town and district fire departments, she said, "The council started that discussion during our working retreats during the summer, and it's something District 3 is interested in exploring. The town fire department relies on volunteers, so there's a special kind of vulnerability. If a joint venture with District 3 means we all can have good coverage all of the time, that would be to everybody's advantage."

Republished with permission of The Journal of the San Juans.