Michael McCormic, Jr.
BRUSH PRAIRIE — The Hockinson Fun Days is a time of celebration for many north Clark County residents. For the firefighters in Fire District 3, the festival is a time to serve their growing community and show the population a lighter side of the men and women who keep our friends and family safe.
The district, which protects over 40,000 residents in Hockinson, Venersborg, Brush Prairie, and Battle Ground, participated heavily in the Fun Days as a way to keep the public informed and included in firefighting affairs.
Chief Steve Wrightson, who oversees all of Fire District 3, was present for the fire demonstrations and massive breakfast fundraiser that took place on June 3. According to Wrightson, the fire district has put on the community breakfast feed in Hockinson since 1989. Since then, the event has transformed to become an annual benefit fundraiser for a community member in need.
“Every year we raise money for somebody in the community that’s is in need of something. This time, it was Kaylin Coles, who is a fourteen-year old girl from Venersborg area that needs a kidney,” Wrightson says.
Between those looking to support Coles and those not wanting to have to cook their own breakfast that morning, the fundraiser saw over 3,000 in attendance.
After spending hours preparing and serving breakfast, the firefighters rushed to their engines to partake in the parade. Throughout the day, safety demonstrations took place with the help of fire marshals and local law enforcement.
While Smokey Bear and Sparky the Firedog roamed through the crowd, the Sheriff K9 Unit did a demonstration on the firehouse lawn, the firefighters showed kids how to escape a blaze using their life safety house, and the fleet of fire and rescue vehicles sat on display for onlookers to explore. The fire department later lit the firehouse to demonstrate a fire rescue situation and performed an auto extrication on a junker car with a dummy patient to show how they respond in an vehicle accident.
As public service workers, Chief Wrightson and his fellow firefighters recognize the importance of a strong presence in the community. While the department is often needed deal with fires or car wrecks after they have already occurred, one of the most effective methods of dealing with these emergencies is to prevent them from happening in the first place. This, according to Wrightson, is where keeping the department involved in the community is most important.
“We strongly feel that the relationship with the community is number one. It’s their fire department, not ours,” says Wrightson. “We like to have the community come into our building and look around and ask questions.”
“A big part of our job is preventing fires. If we can prevent a fire from ever happening, that person isn’t displaced from their home, they’re not threatened, they’re not losing all their property in a blaze,” adds volunteer firefighter Zach Helms. “One of things we do about that is a lot of information about smoke detectors and sprinkler systems — anything we can do to prevent that fire from ever starting.”
Having just taken on the responsibility of the Battle Ground area at the beginning of this year, Fire District 3’s presence in the local community has become even more apparent.
Wrightson explains, “It’s actually working out very well. We have better staffing in Battle Ground, we have better staffing in the fire district, because we manage the resources and we back each other up.”
Along with the new territory, the fire district’s budget has also experienced some recent fluctuation as new staffing and equipment repairs become increasingly necessary. As such, the department is requesting a levy rate increase for next year. In 2016, the rate was $1.42 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which was lowered this year to $1.29. Currently, Fire District 3 is seeking an increase back to the 2016 value of $1.42. The maximum amount that the department can request is $1.50, but Wrightson claims that the district can maintain its services at the current requested rate, stressing the district’s record for financial responsibility.
“We have no debt currently. Everything is paid for. We think we’re doing a pretty good job with people’s taxes,” Wrightson asserts. “We truly believe in financial responsibility.”
For Wrightson and his fire crew, making sure that their residents are safe is top priority. It is the reason they are asking voters to pass the upcoming levy, it is the reason for their expensive demonstrations at the Hockinson Fun Days, and it is the reason for their unwavering positive presence in their district’s communities.