Camas-Washougal Fire Department rescues trapped person, gets hit with violation by state

The state Department of Labor and Industries says a Feb. 14 rescue during a fire wasn’t allowable because the department didn’t have at least three people at the scene

On Feb. 14, emergency responders with the Camas-Washougal Fire Department rescued a trapped individual while responding to a fire.

On May 10, the state Department of Labor and Industries delivered a formal report after an investigation of the incident, issuing a safety violation against the department. According to the Camas-Washougal Fire Department, the state contends the rescue was not allowed because the department didn’t have at least three people at the scene.

Visitors look at a fire engine during a 2017 open house at the Camas-Washougal Fire Department. Photo by Alex Peru
Visitors look at a fire engine during a 2017 open house at the Camas-Washougal Fire Department. Photo by Alex Peru

The Camas City Council is preparing to appeal the decision “at the earliest opportunity” as the department laments the agency’s decision to, in their view, punish the heroic efforts of first responders, according to a press release.

“This is a wide reaching and troubling stance by the state oversight agency,” the fire department said in the release. “In effect they are stating that all fire departments in the state of Washington are hereafter prohibited from saving a life if they do not have at least three personnel on scene. This chilling order could cost Washington fire departments hundreds of millions of dollars and will cause citizens to lose their lives. This was not the original intent of state safety rules, and indeed there have been other fire departments evaluated under nearly identical circumstances that were not cited. We believe state code provides a specific exemption for the actions of our firefighters.”

The Camas City Council is now evaluating staffing needs in light of the ruling. The final evaluation will determine staffing levels at the fire department for the upcoming city budget process, according to the release.

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