How long have you been in Bellingham?
I’ve been in Bellingham since March of 2008, but I started my career in 1993.
How do you like Bellingham?
It’s wonderful. It’s a great place to raise a family.
What’s your favorite spot in Bellingham?
Boulevard Park is the best. If it’s rainy and windy out, you can pop into Woods, grab something to drink, and stay dry. If it’s nice, you can be outside on the patio with a cold drink. If you feel like walking, you can go to Fairhaven or downtown from there—that one spot does it all.
What do you like best about your job?
Working with business owners to eliminate hazards. I can help create a safer environment for them and for the firefighters to operate. Most little businesses that burn down or have a devastating fire never come back. It affects the community in a negative way. If we can prevent fires from happening in the first place, businesses in our community will be more resilient. They will be able to grow with less danger of a catastrophe.
What key thing do you help people figure out?
Housekeeping and extension cords are the big two. Most people don’t take things out of their business when they don’t need it any longer, or they don’t want the electrician to come in and wire a new outlet because they laid out the office differently. They’re plugging into the wrong size extension cords or laying it under a rug, which is a huge fire hazard.
So, what do people not understand about the Fire Department?
A common question is, What do firefighters do when they’re not going on emergency calls? They work 24-hour shifts, and have a battery of different things they do between emergencies. They train on all the different fire and EMS situations that they might encounter. We don’t have time to look anything up while we’re on a call.
We get a lot of visitors at the station, and perform fire prevention activities—like public education events, safety speeches, and visits to schools. Our firefighters also exercise quite a bit to keep their physical fitness up. It’s good for the city; it keeps them from getting injured.
Is there any book you read recently that’s impacting you?
The last book I read was Leadership on the Line by Martin Linsky and Ronald Heifetz. I read it for the Executive Fire Officer Program I’m taking through the National Fire Academy. It’s a really insightful book. I had originally heard about it from our previous Chief Administration Officer, David Webster. It talks about distancing yourself from issues in an organization by going to the balcony to look down from a third-party view, so you can get a better understanding of what’s going on. I find that helpful because we get deep into the codes when we’re working with customers. It’s nice to step back and look at it from a different perspective to see if there’s a new solution we can come up with.
If you’re free on a beautiful day like this, what would you be doing if you weren’t here talking to us?
Probably hiking or camping. That’s what we normally do.
Where do you go camping?
Everywhere. I’m a Boy Scout leader, and we go camping one weekend a month. We camp up in the Chuckanuts and anywhere around Mt. Baker. We’ve never been disappointed anywhere we’ve gone.
Do you have a particular area of interest in firefighting?
Yeah, I used to do rescue, but now it’s fire protection systems. I have a national certification in fire alarm systems and I teach it at the community college. It fits well with our emphasis on fire prevention.
Are there any particular challenges with Bellingham having an old stock of buildings?
It’s a neat challenge. We have a lot of old buildings undergoing renovations—dealing with an old skeleton and creating something fresh and new that still meets all the codes.
What do you like best downtown?
Coffee. The Black Drop is my usual haunt. It’s a real eclectic group, and it’s a fun environment. It’s a real nice cup of coffee too.
Do you have a special local cause or charity you’d like to call out?
Boy Scouts. That’s where our future leaders are going to come from. It’s difficult in this day and age with social media and sports; there’s so many things competing for their time. It is worth the investment.