Small-town fire station blazes forward

So close yet so far; fire stations an hour and a half apart have more differences than similarities.

Lincoln+County+District+Four+Fire+Chief+Jim+Adams+drives+a+fire+truck+around+downtown%2C+Oct.+15%2C+in+Reardan%2C+Wash.

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Lincoln County District Four Fire Chief Jim Adams drives a fire truck around downtown, Oct. 15, in Reardan, Wash.

ALEXANDRIA OSBORNE, Life editor

Note: This piece was written and shot for the Murrow Rural Reporting Plunge. For more info, please see rural.murrowbpj.com/ 

In the small town of Reardan, WA, community members gather for the Lincoln County Fire Department’s annual Hunter’s Breakfast fundraiser.

On Oct. 15, the volunteer-based fire station opened before the sun came out to cook hash browns, sausage and biscuits and gravy for community members as hunting season starts. 

Unlike the Pullman Fire Department, the station in Pullman runs because the unpaid volunteers are committed to being there for their community, said Linda Daugherty, volunteer firefighter and EMT. The station took donations from the Hunter’s Breakfast, which helps keep it up and running as well.

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Volunteer firefighter Blake Blauert cooks hashbrowns during Lincoln County Fire District Four’s annual Hunter’s Breakfast fundraiser, Oct. 15, in Reardan, Wash.

“[This] is our one fundraiser for the year,” Daughtery said. “Our community supports us well. Hunters come in early and then our community later.”

Lincoln County Fire Chief Jim Adams said 80 percent of fire stations are volunteer-based because of the lack of funding, especially in rural communities like Reardan. 

But, Pullman’s fire department has paid volunteers who receive an hourly wage alongside their firefighters working for their career, said Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston.

Daughtery said the station gets about 12 calls a month, and they take calls throughout the county, including cities such as Davenport.

Reardan is far from hospitals as well, so those first five to 10 minutes are critical after they receive a phone call, Adams said. 

While the Lincoln County Fire Department only has one station in the area, Heston said there are two stations that reach Pullman city lines and go into other areas of the Palouse.

“[We have] our main calls and then we have mutual aid contracts where we can respond anywhere in the county or across the border, so Moscow or the Lewiston-Clarkston area,” Heston said. 

With multiple areas the department attends to, the station receives between 10 and 20 calls per day, he said. 

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Lincoln County District Four Fire Chief Jim Adams demonstrates how to use a firehose, Oct. 15, in Reardan, Wash.

At the Lincoln County Fire Department, many of the volunteers take on leadership roles but continue on to work with the department after stepping down for years, Adams said. 

This is the first year Adams has held the fire-chief position, but still works closely with the fire chief before him, he said. 

In the past 11 years, he has worked as a volunteer firefighter and as the EMS captain. He said he has loved every one of the roles he has taken on at the station. 

Volunteer firefighter Bart Blauert is a WSU alum and has been at the fire department for 15 years. 

Blauert said his favorite part about volunteering is the comradery and being able to help the community he lives in. 

“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” Adams said. “Small communities only survive if we help each other.”