Growing as the community does

POULSBO —  As Little Norway and its surrounding communities quickly grow in population and new residential and commercial developments show up along State Route 305 and Highway 3, public agencies are making sure they have enough staff and resources necessary to accommodate this growth.

The Poulsbo Fire Department responded to that call recently by reorganizing its staff as well as hiring new employees. The PFD Board of Fire Commissioners and staff recognized the new hires and promoted existing staff during a Jan. 11 ceremony.

“The promotions and new hires is our latest step in the strategic planning process to be implemented,” Chief Jim Shields said. “And clearly the biggest step the department has taken towards meeting the needs of the increased demand for services.”

The new hires include:

•Â  Chad Equatore, Daniel Sobole, Matthew Peschon and Shane Keeley as new firefighters/emergency medical technicians.

• Joel Bower, Bryson Eader, and Jake Gillanders as the agency’s newest firefighters/paramedics.

By hiring more firefighters/EMTs, each shift alone will have five firefighters/EMTs, not including paramedics and officers.

The hiring of more paramedics allows two paramedics to be on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, instead of just one. Paramedics provide advanced life support techniques in the field as an extension of a hospital emergency room.

With only one paramedic per shift, the agency relied on neighboring fire departments for support if the only paramedic on duty was attending to another patient. Two paramedics will help take some of the burden off the neighboring fire departments and allow for quicker response within the district.

The department also promoted 11 in-house employees:

•Â  Firefighters/EMT’s Chris Rahl, Kurt Serwold, and Justin Zeigler were promoted to lieutenants.

• Shift officers Shane Anderson, John Warnke and Bob Brooks were promoted to rank of captain.

• Captains Chris Morrison and Bruce Peterson were promoted to shift battalion chiefs and will serve as duty chief and incident commander at major accidents. Lt. Jeff Russell was also promoted to captain/acting shift battalion chief.

•Â  Lt. Jim Gillard was promoted to rank of interim battalion chief of training following the retirement of Mike Walsh.

• Tom Huddleston was promoted from battalion chief of administration to deputy chief of administration.

The department is still in the process of completing a nationwide search to hire a new deputy chief of operations, who will oversee all the department operations for fire suppression and emergency medical services in addition to managing the shift battalion chiefs.

This encompasses the largest number of new employees hired and promotions to occur at one time, Shields said.

“The department is extremely proud of department members who were promoted in the reorganization and of the new people who are joining our family here at Poulsbo Fire,” Shields said. “The department welcomes the change and the opportunity to grow to better serve our community.”

The implementation of the new staffing plan has coincided with the recent development of the Olhava project, College Marketplace, and the 1,000-plus projected new housing units and associated new commercial buildings in the area. In 2005, Poulsbo Fire had the greatest increase in call volume in Kitsap County, a 6-8 percent hike. In the past 10 years, PFD has experienced a 43.2 percent increase.

The reorganization of the staff was just one of many parts of the agency’s new strategic plan to help meet the demands of the citizens and communities the department serves, Shields said.

The first major step in the strategic plan included the construction of Station 77 on Pioneer Hill in 2002 and 2003. Other areas the agency will be looking at include more staffing reorganization, long-term financial sustainability, the district’s facilities and systems that allow the it to be more operationally efficient and effective.

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