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Firefighters earned their promotions

"Where’s the fire?Next time it’s at your house, be glad someone cares. And on an island where runaway home prices are a constant threat to the viability of our largely volunteer fire brigade, we’re always glad to see the department take strides for the good.Last week, with the formal hiring of longtime volunteers Jim Dow, Sequoia Jones and David Bailey, as paid firefighters, it happened.“It says something very positive about this department, that we were able to attract such quality people to these openings,” fire department Director Ken Guy said. We concur, and we’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the efforts of these volunteers – and the wisdom of the fire board in making them paid fire professionals.We’ve spent a number of years now chasing sirens to the remotest corners of the island, trailing crews answering the call to house fires, car wrecks, medical emergencies, downed power lines – you name it. Stalwarts among them have been Jones, a 10-year volunteer, and Bainbridge High School graduate Bailey, who signed on as a cadet six years ago at age 16.And Jim Dow perhaps best exemplifies the selfless ideal of the volunteer brigade. We recall his industrious efforts of 1992-93, when he spent hundreds of hours of his own time mapping out every address on Bainbridge on his Macintosh laptop. Not from a desk, mind you. Dow drove or walked down every street on the island – every single street – with a goal of locating every Bainbridge home. It was an unprecedented effort, and much needed on an island with numerous remote by-ways, mile-long driveways and houses tucked away in the trees, out of sight of fire crews passing from the road. Where’s the fire? Thanks to Dow, the department can always find it.There’s been general agreement for some years that island volunteers need opportunities within the department, some avenue of promotion that can bring them into the ranks of the paid staff. We were as dismayed as the volunteers themselves two years back, when fire commissioners rescinded a policy of giving first crack at new jobs to volunteers. We agreed with the rank-and-file, who believed that short-term fairness and long-term morale were at stake.The board eventually agreed to a policy that’s come to be known as the “Rule Of Three” – in which island volunteers are given first crack at emergency-responder jobs at or below the rank of duty captain if at least three applicants meet the commissioners’ criteria for the positions in question.We think it’s a fair standard, if the standards set are fair. The hiring of Dow, Jones and Bailey demonstrates that there’s a wealth of experience and training within the volunteer ranks to sustain the career arm of the Bainbridge department. We wish the trio many more years of safe and rewarding service in the island community. We hope we don’t have to call on them too often, but we’re glad they and their fellows are at the ready."

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