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Fire board hopefuls pledge their loyalty to department
One is a volunteer, the other served for two years during his college years.
Its a race between a responder and an administrator, with the Bainbridge Island Fire Department the sure winner.
Thats how fire commission chair Glen Tyrrell characterizes the contest to fill his soon-to-be vacant seat.
The candidates, longtime firefighter and medic David Coatsworth and marine operations consultant Michael Adams, would both bring greatness to the fire department and the community, said Tyrrell, who plans to travel in the next few years after retiring from the commission.
Coatsworth, who works for the Seattle Fire Department and volunteers for the BIFD, understands the needs of our responders and recognizes the trends in responses, Tyrrell said. Hes got a physical response to the lights and the sirens, and thats a plus.
Adams, the general manager for Pacific Marine Technical Services, has a great attention to detail, can analyze information, draw conclusions, adapt very quickly to changes, Tyrrell said.
Basically, (Adams) spends a lot of time on business, (Coatsworth) spends a lot of time on people, he added.
The two candidates also agree that the community stands to benefit regardless of who earns the most votes in November.
Its a win-win situation either way, said Coatsworth, who has served on fire departments for nearly 21 years.
However, a few distinctions emerge as the candidates discuss their priorities for the department.
Coatsworth wants to bring the department back to the core mission of responding to common emergencies, including auto accidents, medical problems and house fires.
Ever since 9/11, theres been a significant shift directing fire service training for the one big, bad thing a terrorist attack or natural disaster, he said. But if we put all our eggs in one basket, well forget the basics.
We have to do well the things that we do day-in and day-out, otherwise well be a mediocre department.
Adams, an island native who served as a volunteer firefighter for two years while attending Washington State University, said core services are important but disagrees that large-scale emergency training will hamper the departments ability to respond.
There is a need to train and work as a cohesive team, with other emergency responders, he said.
Adams has organized inter-agency emergency training in the Puget Sound region through Pacific Marine Technical Services. Recently, he helped write grants for a large, Department of Homeland Security-funded marine training for Bainbridge firefighters, 12 other fire departments, the U.S. Coast Guard, port authorities, county law enforcement and federal agencies.
Doing these big-picture things is important he said, especially because emergency response training for terrorist attacks translates into heightened ability for most other emergencies. And its often funded by the feds and relieves pressure on the (local) training budget. So, its not on the local dime, its on the one big dime.
Coatsworth cautions that the vast amounts of funds now available for terror-related preparedness may shift training away from basic services.
Theres big money for training against WMDs and terrorism, and thats well and good, but we cant leave our core mission behind, he said.
Both candidates say theyll make it a priority to upgrade the departments communications equipment, which Coatsworth described as inoperative on some parts of the island.
Adams wants to ensure local fire service provided to Washington State Ferries fetches a respectable price.
Coatsworth said he wants to help steer the department as island demographics change and the ready pool of qualified volunteers continues to shrink.
People here work in Silverdale, Bremerton and Seattle, he said. Its not like it was 60 years ago when your firefighter was also your milkman or your mailman, living and working here on the island. In five or 10 years, we may not be able to depend on volunteers as much and may need more career people.
No matter who wins the race, Tyrrell believes both Adams and Coatsworth would fill his commission seat well.
Theyre both near and dear friends and I think theyll both find my seat a wonderful fit, he said.