Bridgeport man addresses fire issues

— A local man is calling for a town hall meeting next month to talk about the city’s fire department, citing concerns about training.

Michael Knox, 71, said he began filing records requests with the city about a year ago because as a property owner, he wanted to know if the city’s insurance rating could change under the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau’s requirements for fire department preparedness and operations.

“The more I got into it… the more I realized that the concern about the insurance was minor because what I was discovering actually indicated a lack of training,” he said, noting that in one response he received from the city, the last time firefighters reportedly received ladder training was in 2008.

Another concern, he said, was an apparent lack of certification for volunteers to operate the fire trucks. When he requested a list of trained firefighters, the city told him no list existed.

“At every juncture, you see that there is little to no training,” he said. “None of this is my opinion, this is all supported by documented fact.”

He has spoken about his concerns at least 10 times at City Council meetings, he said, and by and large has been met with no response.

The city has taken some steps in recent months, however: Councilman Phil Lee is working on drafting a new constitution for the fire department, and the department has been working on keeping more complete records.

The town hall meeting will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Bridgeport Elementary School’s cafeteria, 1400 Tacoma Ave. Knox said the entire community is invited, and a Spanish-speaking translator will be available.

Knox said the meeting is meant to be informational, “not to blame anybody for how terrible the conditions are now.”

He said the problems have been ongoing for several years, longer than the current Fire Chief Carlos Lopez and Mayor Marilynn Lynn have been in their positions.

“It’s time for people to figure out exactly what is going on,” he said. “The real hope that I have behind this is for everybody to say, ‘You’ve really uncovered a pile of stinking poo here; mayor, what are you going to do about it?’”

Lynn did not return a request for comment before press time.

Although several fellow residents have shared their suspicions with him, Knox said not everyone agrees with his approach.

“There’s a lot of people in the community that think I’m trying to destroy the fire department. What would be my logic in doing that?” he said.

In December last year, Knox said he offered to help the fire department keep records, since he has a background in administration. The city didn’t take him up on the offer.

“Their administrative situation is an absolute disaster,” he said. “If you don’t document this stuff, then obviously, how can you prove it happened in the first place?”

Councilman Neil Jacobson publicly resigned from the city’s formerly named fire/ambulance committee on Sept. 26, 2012, citing difficulties in being able to contribute.

“I have repeatedly been denied opportunities to increase/update my knowledge of fire and ambulance operation, procedures, policies, training, etc.,” his resignation letter said. “It is apparent to me that my input or participation of any sort is of no value and is unnecessary.”

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