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News / Clark County News

Clark County Councilor Sue Marshall spends day with Fire District 6 to get up-close look at work

She says it's important to see 'how things operate'

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: February 1, 2024, 7:39pm
5 Photos
Clark County Councilor Sue Marshall returns to Fire Station 61 in Hazel Dell on Thursday morning after joining firefighters on a medical call. Marshall said it was enlightening to join the crews for calls for help instead of being the one to make the call for help.
Clark County Councilor Sue Marshall returns to Fire Station 61 in Hazel Dell on Thursday morning after joining firefighters on a medical call. Marshall said it was enlightening to join the crews for calls for help instead of being the one to make the call for help. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Clark County Councilor Sue Marshall quickly fulfilled her biggest wish Thursday while serving as a firefighter for a day with Clark County Fire District 6: riding in a fire truck with the siren on.

During conversations with Fire Chief Kristan Maurer over the agency’s funding needs, Marshall said the chief invited her for a ride-along, which she eagerly accepted.

“I think it’s really important to see, on the ground, how things operate,” Marshall said. “You know, we’re making policy decisions on things, but there’s nothing like really getting into that granular level about how things actually operate.”

When she arrived for her day as a firefighter, Marshall said the crew gave her a tour of Station 61 on Hazel Dell Avenue and explained how it would work if they got a call. They’d just settled into one of the station’s common rooms with coffees to chat when the radios went off, she said. Marshall quickly climbed into the backseat, sporting a fire district sweatshirt, and they took off.

“I felt like I was in really good hands, and we responded to someone who had a medical issue, and I got to see the interface with the ambulance service,” Marshall said. “Everybody knew what they were supposed to do and just executed it really, really efficiently. It was really impressive.”

But what she didn’t anticipate, she said, is how hairy it can be to navigate through traffic in a roughly 30-foot-long fire engine. Accessibility for those emergency vehicles is something for her to keep in mind, she said, as she’s considering development proposals.

Maurer said she appreciated Marshall joining the agency for the day and hopes she came away with an even better understanding of the fire district’s needs — especially when Maurer comes before the council for its support.

Maurer noted the station Marshall visited for the day is the district’s busiest. Last year, crews there responded to 6,526 calls, while the entire district handled 11,925 calls.

“Just by having her really see what these firefighters do every day and the services they provide, that’s just our way of letting her know exactly what they do so that when we ask for support and things, she can know what we’re out there doing,” Maurer said.

The agency offers ride-alongs, particularly because it’s funded by taxpayers, Maurer said.

“Anyone that’s interested in the fire service for a future career — or students or even family, friends, that kind of thing — we’ll invite them to ride along,” she said.

Fire Capt. Nick McCarty said he thinks a lot of people assume that all firefighters do is fight fires every day. He said these ride-alongs can show people the variety of other things they do, such as responding to car crashes, injuries and hazardous materials, along with the occasional cat stuck in a tree.

After returning from the medical call, Marshall sipped fresh coffee from a mug emblazoned with “I’m the boss” on it. She asked crew members about their desires to become firefighters and the hazards of the job. As one firefighter explained how recent legislation has changed the way they respond to some calls, the six firefighters gathered around the table froze as they heard tones over the radio signaling they needed to head to a call.

They left their mugs on the table, and Marshall followed them out of the station and into the backseat of a fire engine. They were quickly on their way with the engine’s lights shining and sirens wailing as it headed down Hazel Dell Avenue.

In the afternoon, crews took Marshall to a training session at an abandoned house in the Lake Shore area where they practiced searching buildings.

Marshall recalled having to call paramedics for an elderly relative and interacting with them as a community member in need of their help. But to be on the other side as someone answering those calls was enlightening, she said.

“It just makes me feel like we’re in really good hands,” she said.

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