CAMAS, Wash. – The Camas-Washougal Fire Department said it was issued a safety violation on Thursday by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries after firefighters chose to save someone’s life earlier this year.
KGW first reported about the fire department’s predicament in March.
On Feb. 14, two firefighters with the department responded to a house fire on Prune Hill in Camas. When the city standard two-person crew engine arrived, firefighters heard cries for help coming from the garage. By state law, there needs to be three firefighters on scene before they enter a building.
But firefighter Adam Brice said the crew really had no choice.
“There were two firefighters that entered the structure they shouldn't have gone into,” Brice told KGW in March. “But we're firefighters and you can't send firefighters to a fire and have someone banging on a door and expect us to just sit outside and do nothing.”
Brice said the incident underlined a need they’ve been asking the city to meet for years: adding at least one more firefighter per engine. That would amount to staffing 15 more firefighters at a cost of $1.5 million to taxpayers.
Camas city administrator Pete Capell told KGW in March that he commended the actions of the firefighters. He also pointed out that 85 percent of the calls Camas firefighters respond to are medical. Cappell also said house fires reported through 911 calls usually trigger multi-engine responses.
Now, the fire department says the City of Camas plans to appeal the safety violation and $2,400 fine as soon as possible.
“The City is deeply concerned that L&I intends to punish our personnel for heroically saving the life of one of our citizens,” the department said in a news release on Friday. “This is a wide reaching and troubling stance by the state oversight agency. 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 3 personnel on scene. This chilling order could cost Washington fire departments hundreds of millions of dollars and will cause citizens to lose their lives.”
Cappell told KGW in March the issue of firefighter staffing would be a topic of discussion moving forward as the city’s 2019-2020 budget is developed.
KGW's Katherine Cook contributed to this report.