Fill the Boot to stay outside Vancouver city limits

Vancouver Police raised safety concerns last year

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: August 8, 2012, 6:14 PM

 

If you go

What: Fill the Boot; off-duty firefighters raise money for Muscular Dystrophy Association.

When: Noon to 4 p.m. today and Friday.

Where: Intersection of Highway 99 and Northeast 78th Street.

Citing friendlier county codes, the Vancouver Firefighters Union will once again hold its annual Fill the Boot fundraiser outside city limits.

The fundraiser — which benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association — was forced outside of Vancouver last year, when city police told the union that the event violated a law against aggressive panhandling and added they thought the fundraiser was unsafe.

The union held Fill the Boot at the intersection of Highway 99 and Northeast 78th Street in Hazel Dell, where county law enforcement has welcomed the charity event, held nationwide.

It’s the same intersection they’ll be at from noon to 4 p.m. today and Friday. This year, Fire District 6 firefighters will also be on hand.

Off-duty firefighters ask drivers to donate cash, and they do step into stopped traffic at the light to collect it. But no injuries have ever been reported as a result, organizers said.

The Vancouver City Council passed a code last month that allows for fundraising in the streets.

But Vancouver firefighter and Fill the Boot organizer John Stewart said it’s not a very permissive rule.

“We’re lucky that Sheriff Garry Lucas is more than happy to have us do the event (in Hazel Dell),” Stewart said.

The city’s new code requires permission from the city’s public works director, a traffic safety plan, closing down a lane, and has restrictions on which streets can be closed and when.

“They changed the ordinance in order to put a lot of restrictions on it,” Stewart said. “We decided to hold it in the same place, because it’s not about whether it’s in the city of Vancouver or not.”

Firefighters wear safety vests and are also trained to be in the right-of-way during emergencies.

City Councilor Bart Hansen, whose largest supporter is the firefighters union, called the new city ordinance a “sad affair.”

“Maybe internally in the city of Vancouver, we could have been a bit more accommodating,” Hansen said. “There’s a lot going on here; it really makes it difficult to have a charitable event like Fill the Boot.”

Hansen ultimately joined a unanimous vote by the council in passing the new ordinance. He said it was because “once the firefighters moved out to the county and found out they had a better deal, the issue resolved itself through death by bureaucracy.”

He said that Fill the Boot is the only charitable event that uses the roads. For that reason, he worries that Boy Scouts or politicians would try and enter traffic are invalid.

“I really wish we could have worked something out,” Hansen said. “There’s a lot bigger fish to fry in Vancouver.”

Last year, publicity from the flap brought drivers out in droves, and the union raised a record $20,310 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542; http://www.twitter.com/col_cityhall; andrea.damewood@columbian.com.