<em>At a well-attended reception in early January, retiring NKF&R Fire Commissioner Fernando “Espy” Espinosa, second from right, was honored with gifts presented by, from left, NKF&R Fire Chief Dan Smith, NKF&R Assistant Chief Rick LaGrandeur, and fellow commissioner Stephen Neupert.  </em>NKF&R photo

At a well-attended reception in early January, retiring NKF&R Fire Commissioner Fernando “Espy” Espinosa, second from right, was honored with gifts presented by, from left, NKF&R Fire Chief Dan Smith, NKF&R Assistant Chief Rick LaGrandeur, and fellow commissioner Stephen Neupert. NKF&R photo

New commissioner, and new firefighters

2017 in review: We’ve just started to analyze statistics from 2017, but we know already that we answered about the same number of alarms in the past year as we did in 2016.

Also similar between 2016 and 2017: the share of calls that were for medical issues (about two-thirds). The remaining calls were for things such as wires and trees down, fire alarm activations, burning complaints, service calls and (making up the smallest share of all) actual fires. Watch this space as well as our website for more 2017 data as it becomes available.

Welcome and farewell: Long-time NKF&R Fire Commissioner Fernando “Espy” Espinosa retired from the board at the end of 2017. Former Washington State Patrol Detective John Huntington was elected to the position.

Espinosa started as a volunteer firefighter with Kitsap County Fire District No. 4 (Suquamish) in 1972 and rose through the ranks. He was first elected as a fire commissioner in the late 1980s, and joined NKF&R’s board when the Suquamish district merged into the larger department in 1994. During his tenure, 9-1-1 service came to the community and the fire departments took on emergency medicine. Espinosa’s legacy includes the districts becoming more efficient through mergers, replacement of aging facilities and apparatus, and improving response times.

As a military and law enforcement veteran, Huntington is no stranger to public service. He is well-positioned to help lead the fire district into the future with his emergency services experience as well as his education; the 56-year-old holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership.

NKF&R’s Board of Fire Commissioners meets on the second and fourth Mondays of the month at 7 p.m. in the district’s headquarters fire station (26642 Miller Bay Road NE near Kingston). Meetings are open to the public. Learn more about these two men and their respective commitments to public service by visiting our news/press releases page at www.nkfr.org.

Volunteer-intern firefighter academy: Twelve volunteers from two area fire departments marked the conclusion of an intensive 15-week firefighter academy in graduation ceremonies in December. The event included awards recognizing achievements and a live demonstration of the participants’ firefighting skills. It also marked the accomplishment of an important step in the volunteers’ quest for paid positions in the fire service.

Participants included volunteers from the host agency, NKF&R, as well as from East Jefferson Fire-Rescue (EJFR). Eighteen started the program in September, but attrition reduced the number to a dozen by last weekend’s graduation. All remaining students passed both practical and written certification exams.

The NKF&R graduates are: Austin C. Bach, 19, of Mountlake Terrace; James M. Dilger, 18, of Bothell; Brooks P. Ellingsen, 21, of Poulsbo; Aidan M. Fleming, 19, of Tacoma; Nathan M. LaPlante, 35, of Indianola (previously of Cut Bank, Montana); Hayden J. Smallbeck, 20, of Kingston; Colin R. Stone, 23, of Kingston; and Tanner E. Stracener, 20, of Poulsbo.

Several graduates were honored with awards at the December event. NKF&R’s Stone was selected by his peers as the academy’s most inspirational member. Stone was also named a “Bulldog” during the course of the academy; instructors designate students as Bulldogs when the recipients demonstrate a special degree of tenacity, leadership, commitment to teamwork and ability to overcome adversity.

NKF&R’s Stracener and Ellingsen were named to the Chief’s Company. Selected by the drillmaster, recipients’ individual skills, attitude and team spirit earned them a spot on this academy’s ideal truck or engine company.

Completion of the firefighter academy is one of several important steps in the district’s career-oriented training program for volunteers. This program offers participants the opportunity to acquire qualifications to better compete for paid fire service jobs, while providing the community with additional response personnel to augment the district’s permanent staffing.

Currently, the graduates are adding to their resumes with real-life experience while serving as volunteers on shift alongside the districts’ paid personnel. They’ll receive additional training in emergency medicine, hazardous materials, fire pump/engine operations, public fire/injury prevention, marine firefighting/rescue and more.

NKF&R’s volunteer-intern program has been in place for 30 years; nearly 200 past members have used it as a launching pad to emergency services careers in Washington state and beyond. Learn more about the program by visiting our about us/people page at www.nkfr.org.

Shut the front door: If the unthinkable occurs and fire strikes your home, remember to close all doors on the way out. Closed doors keep the fire contained and deprive the flames of the infusion of air that helps them to grow and spread.

— Michele Laboda is prevention/community services specialist, and public information officer of North Kitsap Fire & Rescue.

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