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June 19, 2019

6/5/2019 10:26:00 PM
Remembrance of Hope Island Fire Department
John Doyle

Just imagine yourself sitting on a bench in front of an old fire station with a bunch of older men and women reminiscing about the “old days” in the “department.” That’s about what it feels like to read Roy Horn’s new book, “The Story of the Men and Women of the Hope Island Fire Department 1958-2002.”
This “stream of consciousness” telling of the history of the Hope Island Fire Department is particularly enjoyable for many of us who have served in the Department. I would specifically recommend it for those who live on the “west shore” as a historical background for your community.
Like many retellings, the stories are governed by those who are telling it (I mean that in a good way). As a vested reader, my mind wandered into my version of some of the stories and events in which I took part. It’s not that the versions are different, but a different perspective of the same events.
One series of events, in particular, regarding water rescue follows me to this day. Back in ‘90s, the fire commissioners specifically forbad the Hope Island firefighters from performing water rescues. Nothing like forbidding volunteers from doing something to guarantee they will do it. But it all came to a good end in the formation of what is now Skagit Bay Search and Rescue.
I have noticed that over the years (talking with other volunteers) that we each embellish in different ways and it is usually our role in the event. It’s all in the good sport of storytelling.
I know that Roy combed all the records at the firehall, interviewed and spoke with many volunteers over the years. The aspect of volunteer fire departments that was mentioned throughout the book that I would like to emphasize is that the volunteer association served the community and the firefighters as an integral fabric of the community.
The department was a social group for neighbors to get to know one another, and it was also a support network for first responders. The more experienced volunteers mentored the new recruits. We helped each other recover from the trauma of experiencing the worst days of people’s lives in the community.
As mentioned in the later chapters, it has become increasingly difficult for volunteer organizations to recruit and maintain their memberships, particularly, in today’s volunteer fire departments. Today’s volunteer firefighters need to maintain training and certification levels equal to that of paid fire departments.
It is no small commitment. That being said, volunteering is essential to the identity and continuity of our communities. It serves as an example to our youth and neighbors that some of the core values of the community are not driven by career or money. At some point, giving selflessly to others in need will define us.

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