East Jefferson Fire Rescue Chief Bret Black describes the 2,500-gallon wildfire tender located at Marrowstone Fire Station 12 on Marrowstone Island during an open house on Saturday. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula News)

East Jefferson Fire Rescue Chief Bret Black describes the 2,500-gallon wildfire tender located at Marrowstone Fire Station 12 on Marrowstone Island during an open house on Saturday. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula News)

Marrowstone Island fire station open for business

Volunteers to staff 1,300-square-foot building

NORDLAND — The first private emergency medical service on Marrowstone Island employed an old ambulance reclaimed from a field in Chimacum that was returned to working order by inmates at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton. You could usually find it parked at somebody’s house unless it was responding to calls for broken bones, falls, cardiac events and other emergencies on the 6-square-mile island.

Established in 1978, the Marrowstone Emergency Medical Service was staffed entirely by volunteers and funded by bake sales, T-shirt sales and pancake breakfasts. It operated for more than 20 years until it disbanded in 2000 due to increasingly burdensome regulations and EMT certification requirements.

The legacy of MEMS’ and Marrowstone Island’s tradition of self-reliance and community spirit could be seen Saturday at a ceremony celebrating new Fire Station 5 quarters for East Jefferson Fire Rescue volunteers who respond to fire and medical emergencies on the island.

The Marrowstone Island Foundation — which was founded as a successor to MEMS — raised about $175,000 in donations ranging in amounts from $20 to more than $10,000 for construction costs. Volunteers donated much of the furniture, and a retired house painter contributed his time to painting the house and two apparatus garages.

“The people on the island made this happen,” said MIF treasurer Wim Colgate.

EJFR contributed about $200,000 for permitting, site improvements and septic installation.

Fire Station 5 is one of four unstaffed EJFR fire stations, but it is now the only one where the volunteers can sleep, shower and cook a meal. The 1,300-square-foot home has two baths, three bedrooms — one of which is used as a communication center — and a wall-mounted television monitor where volunteers can keep up with their online training.

The north garage, where the ambulance is parked, has been outfitted with a fitness room.

The south garage houses a 2,500-gallon water tender, spare engine and a ham radio station set up by the Marrowstone Amateur Radio Club to handle emergency communications.

“This is all meant to support the volunteers,” Fire Chief Bret Black said.

Having volunteers close to equipment when a call comes in has dramatically decreased response times out of Station 5, Black said. Trips from fire stations in Chimacum and Port Ludlow to the island that used to take 15 to 17 minutes now take just seven to nine minutes with on-island responders.

Although Marrowstone Island has fewer than 1,000 residents, demand for emergency services is increasing, particularly when Fort Flagler holds big events and on weekends during the summer. Not all volunteers live on the island, so the ability to staff Station 5 for 24-hour periods will provide more reliable and responsive emergency services.

Chris Moore began as a volunteer EMT on Marrowstone Island about a year ago after he retired from a career in IT. About 60 percent of his calls are on the island, where he’s on call 24/7.

“We now have a place to congregate that’s heated and nice,” Moore said.

Former MIF President Bud Ayres said the project represents the island’s resourcefulness and a desire to tackle problems instead of complaining about them.

“It gives us a sense of home pride,” Ayres said. “People want to be able take care of themselves.”

Cheryl Brunette said she remembers how grateful people were when a MEMS volunteer EMT would arrive at the site of an emergency. Because the island is so small, it was usually a familiar face who responded to calls.

“It was great. It served hundreds of people, and it was free,” said Brunette, who used to bake for MEMS fundraisers. “We did transports from the island to Jefferson County and to Seattle.”

The next step for the Marrowstone Island Foundation will be applying for a grant from the state Department of Commerce to purchase solar panels that could provide power to the station should the island be cut off from the mainland during a natural disaster.

Although Marrowstone Island is now served by EJFR, Black said the legacy of MEMS and its mission of neighbors helping neighbors should not be forgotten.

“We want to remember all the pieces that honor that past and that heritage, and those people who protect the island day to day,” he said.

________

Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached by email at paula.hunt@peninsulanews.us.

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