Unvaccinated Firefighters Could Leave Their Jobs; Virus Surge Also Impacting Lewis County Stations

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Local fire departments are being pulled from both sides, with packed hospitals stretching crews thin and some staffers considering leaving over vaccine mandates. Meanwhile, in-house COVID-19 cases are also impacting stations.

In Napavine, four staffers contracted the virus in the past month, although Chief Dan Mahoney said operations weren’t impacted.

In Toledo, Chief Mike Dorothy said six people recently got sick with the virus over the course of two to three weeks. Out of a 17-person staff, “that takes a pretty good chunk,” he said.

The department was still able to respond to calls, he said, but he’s concerned that Toledo’s roster will soon shrink as career or volunteer firefighters refuse to get vaccinated despite a state mandate.

Nobody has left the force yet, he said, “because the mandate is not until October … but that’s definitely an issue that our department is going to have to deal with, and it could greatly impact our volunteers.”

Dorothy said he’s heard as much as 50% of the staff are considering leaving. Volunteers, whose livelihoods are not on the line, would be more likely to step down.

“That being said, these volunteers are long-term volunteers that serve the community for a long time, and it’s a decision that they’re going to have to make come October,” he said. “I know every department here in Lewis County is feeling the same thing.”

The department will likely wrestle with the issue in upcoming commission meetings, he said, and “they’re going to have to come up with something, because we could potentially lose half our department.”

In Chehalis, the vaccine mandate deadline won’t be an issue. According to Chief Ted Hendershot, 100% of the staff will soon be vaccinated, with only one holdout on his way to get the jab. And there have been no recent in-house COVID-19 cases, he added.

Unvaccinated employees, then, won’t be an issue. Instead, it’s community members contracting the virus and ending up in hospitals — mostly unvaccinated individuals, according to health officials — that are putting stress on the department.

Only two or three people are on duty per shift, Hendershot said. And when Providence Centralia Hospital is diverting patients, emergency crews can spend over an hour trying to transport and offload a patient.

“Then the city’s left unprotected for the whole duration,” he said.

Through mutual aid agreements, some departments struggling with staff may have to rely on the help of neighboring stations. When asked if that could be the case with Chehalis, Hendershot referenced those agreements, but added: “we’re busy as it is.”

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Plenty of stations in other states will love to have you !!! Your body your choice

5 days ago
HypocrisyAtItsFinest

Hardas, do you believe in abortion rights?

5 days ago
responsiblehuman

Hardass it doesn't have a thing to do with choice.. it has to do with hospitals that are full because of irresponsible people who apparently don't care about the fact that just being around someone who is not vaccinated or doesn't have a mask on IS THE PROBLEM.. THOSE are the ones spreading the disease.. I wasn't thrilled about the vaccination but I got it.. I wasn't happy with the mask mandates but I still wore one.. not because I wanted to.. those of you whining about wearing a mask seem to forget that you could end up dying from this disease.. If you say "it's no different than the flu" well people have died from the flu... which could've been treated... People are having to delay surgeries that are needed because hospitals are full.. People are also being sent to hospitals in other states because the ICU beds are full. .It's not a laughing matter anymore.. Doesn't matter what fire station you are at ,if you are not vaccinated you are putting other people at risk... I know of someone who was sent 3 hours away from their closest hospital because that was the only ICU bed available.. and that person is not doing well and they don't even have Covid.. Abortion rights is not the subject.. even if it was it doesn't apply here..

5 days ago

Never mentioned Abortion !!!! American by Birth = FREEDOM !!!! You assume that unvaccinated people are spreading covid but how do you know that those people have Covid ? funny how the vaccination rate goes up and then the spike goes up maybe its the vaccinated people spreading covid after all you have been injected !!! Also just like you I know someone ( a Registered Nurse ) and she says the hospital is not overwhelmed so ………

4 days ago