CHELAN – Chelan Fire and Rescue 7, Entiat Fire District 8 and Orondo Fire District 4 was approved for a second safer grant in 2017. The new, 4-year safer grant would provide the funds for the cost of 20 new sets of bunker gear for new recruits each year, but also the salary for a volunteer recruitment coordinator. During December’s regular commissioner’s meeting, it was announced that the position was offered to Brandon Asher, who, at the time, was serving as Fire Captain with Arlington Fire Department, which included responsibilities in volunteer services and recruitment. He comes to Chelan and Douglas Counties with his Associates Degree, Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Management and Fire Protection Technology Degree.
Son of Chief Mike Asher with Entiat Fire/ Chelan County Fire District 8 (CCFD 8), Brandon started as firefighter in 1993, after his graduation from Entiat High School. Moving on to Wenatchee Valley Community College, he received is EMT training and certification in 1995, then went on to a residency program within Shelton Fire and Spokane Fire, before setting in with the City of Moses Lake, officially starting his firefighting career. In 2003, Asher lateraled to Arlington, where he would be promoted to Fire Captain in 2009, and was part of the county Technical Rescue Team and Hazmat Team for his nearly 15 years there.
“I’ve responded to some pretty major calls,” Asher explained on experience brought, which include responding to the 2014 Oso Slide as on-duty captain, and the Marysville School shooting just a few months later, “there’s no way to describe it (the feelings in those moments),” he stated. Asher also brings an abundant knowledge of the area and has worked with wildland a lot over the years, he explained. “I put the whole wildland program together in Arlington,” he stated, “they didn’t have anybody certified to fight wildland fires, so I wrote a grant, pulled a brush truck and got it certified, and the first fire they went to was the Chelan Complex fire,” he expressed, “I had just gotten everybody trained … (but) that’s really what got that program off the ground.”
“I’ve always kind of kept my eye on paid positions over here,” Asher explained on his transition, “I didn’t want to be a firefighter, (so) it was going to be more of a career step.” Unaware that the three regions had applied for the grant together, when it opened up and he was approached on the position, he was a bit surprised, he said, adding his thoughts in that moment, “the opportunity came, and I did have goals to get back over here.”
There’s a budget that Asher has received as part of the safer grant from the government. “So, what I’ve been doing right now is just making the foundation of the promotional material,” he began, explaining the promotional banners, fliers and brochures he has placed throughout the valley, “and it’s for all three agencies … the grant is for 20 people a year, for three years in a row, and that’s for all three agencies as well.”
Asher has high hopes for the success of the program. “The ultimate goal is to try and get our 20 volunteers a year,” he explained, “but hang on to them. Because sometimes you get people that go through and get the training and find out that this is just too hard, or this isn’t for them … (so) the goal is to get them, not only on the fire side, but if they wanted to go to EMT school, (to help them be able to do that). Retention is a big deal, so we’ll be looking at different way to keep them motivated and active.”
In discussing the next steps and the future of the grant, Asher expressed the importance of this year’s Levy request. “It’s really important that we pass this Levy coming up,” he explained, “because we’re going to lose our safer grant firefighters if we don’t pass that,” there’s also various equipment that is in need of replacement, explained Asher. “We’ve applied for grants for new firetrucks, we’ve applied for grants for new air packs, and those are all regional as well, so Chelan, Entiat and Orondo will all have the same air packs,” he explained.
Asher, as outlined in his position, is a regional responder, moving between each of three agencies, and able to respond to calls within any of those agencies. Together, he explained, the three districts will be working together to “standardize and regionalize” the training with all three departments, in the way they operate or set up their equipment, so there’s a bit more of a common feeling and process amongst them.
The safer grant is focused on volunteer recruitment and retention, Asher explained, “It’s pretty difficult anywhere now days to find volunteers,” he supplied, “and then with the added call load with the staff that was already here, (as well as) training, inspections and everything else, they basically joined up with Entiat and Orondo to apply for this grant.” Currently two stations out of the five really don’t have any volunteers right now, he explained. Those two stations being Chelan Falls 72 and Airport 74, “and so we’re making a big push to get volunteers out there.” Will be holding an open house on Feb. 15 at Station 72 – Chelan Falls, from 5 -7 p.m., and on the 17th at Station 74 – Airport, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. During the opening house, those interested will have the opportunity to see equipment, meet some of the staff, ask questions and pick up an application.
For more information on volunteering, contact Assistant Chief Brandon Asher at 509-682-4476 or email at email@example.com.
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