By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
Like most rural fire districts, Toledo’s Lewis County Fire District 2 relies heavily on its volunteers, some of whom have been with the district more than 20 years, such as Chief Mike Dorothy and fire captain and commissioner Mike Thomas.
“Somebody’s got to do it,” Thomas said. “I just love it when somebody comes to us and says … you helped my mom or dad.”
The district is making a call for new volunteers to get involved.
“It’s the best way I feel like I can serve the community,” Dorothy said.
Fire District 2 serves about 10,000 residents of its 98-square- mile portion of Lewis County, according to the district. Last year, it responded to approximately 500 calls for service.
“The demand is increasing every year,” Dorothy said.
Despite the increasing call volume, the district can afford to employ only two full-time firefighters — Dorothy, who was hired as chief in November after 24 years as a volunteer, and one other firefighter, who works the day shift.
The rest of the work is picked up by the district’s about 22 volunteers, Dorothy said, 15 of which are the most active.
That may seem like a healthy number of volunteers for the small district, but Dorothy said there’s one problem.
“Everybody works during the daytime,” he said.
Many residents travel outside of town to work, Thomas added, making it difficult or impossible for them to respond to emergencies during business hours even if they could get out of work.
“They can handle an ambulance, the two of them,” he said, of paid staff. “But if we have a major structure fire, it takes 20 people.”
Thomas noted a recent structure fire in Vader in which personnel from several Lewis County fire districts as well as personnel from Cowlitz County responded.
“We have mutual aid, but it’s nice to go out on our own fire if we have seven or eight people,” he said.
The district has a “junior firefighter” program with involvement from students in Toledo High School.
The students are too young to take on the full duties of a volunteer firefighter but are still helpful, according to fire district officials.
“Our students we have are a great help,” Thomas said.
Volunteers are required to do 24 drills a year and respond to 10 percent of fires. They must be 18 years old and have a first-aid card. The district has training on Monday evenings.
Interested area residents can call the district at 360-864-2366.
“Or show up on a Monday at 7 o’clock,” Thomas said.