Thalberg: Experience counts

POULSBO — By working as a volunteer firefighter as well as within the administrative side of fire departments, Stan Thalberg believes he has what it takes to be Poulsbo Fire’s newest fire commissioner.

He was a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for 13 years with Port Ludlow Fire & Rescue until moving to Poulsbo two years ago. He also volunteered with the Red Cross for 15 years as a state mental health lead, responding to more than 40 local and national disasters, including working for six weeks at the Pentagon and World Trade Center following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

In 1995, he established a nonprofit organization called the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Team in Jefferson County. The group consists of volunteer firefighters from all districts within the county who conduct debriefing sessions following incidents.

“Try to keep them mentally healthy,” Thalberg said of the purpose of the program, which still exists today. “As emergency responders, we tend to carry a little piece of the pain with us of the people we treat.”

There isn’t such a program in Kitsap County, he added, but he would like to see one established.

Thalberg didn’t begin blazing his own trail into the fire service until the early 1990s when he retired from his scholarly pursuits as a University of Washington psychology professor and trained to become a firefighter and emergency medical technician.

When he moved to Poulsbo, he put away his bunker gear and started volunteering on the Poulsbo Fire’s administrative staff from May 1994 to July 1995, writing the district’s policies and procedures. For the past four months, he has been at North Kitsap Fire & Rescue, writing its operational and management policies and procedures.

“I have fire service in my blood right now, I can’t get it out,” he said.

Some of the more pressing issues he feels that are of concern with PFD is the fact that while there are two stations that are staffed full time — Poulsbo Fire’s headquarters on Liberty Road and the Pioneer Hill station — he is concerned that residents in other areas of the district, particularly the north and south ends, aren’t receiving the same level of efficient service.

“What I’d like to see the district do is study whether two staff stations are sufficient and if not, to determine the best location for where additional stations should be so everybody can get the same level of service,” he said.

The district is 54 square miles in size and 24,000 citizens are served by these two stations, he said.

“Everybody pays the same level of taxes and deserves the same degree of service,” he said. “I’m not sure if its been looked at it and I think it’s time that it be investigated.”

Another issue of concern is public involvement in the affairs of the district and the lack of public participation at commissioner meetings.

“The commissioners are not responsible if the people choose to not attend,” Thalberg said. “But there are some things that we can to do get people to attend and take a greater interest in their fire district and fire service.”

He’d like to see the time of the meetings be changed from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and propose establishing a citizens advisory group, which would advise the commissioners on issues such as long-term planning, capital facilities and equipment replacement.

He would also like to see more encouragement of minority and women firefighters within the district.

“I would like to have a cultural(ly) diverse fire service in Fire District 18 that would represent the entire district,” he said.

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