Moses Lake Fire Department Loses 3 Firefighters As Vaccine Deadline Approaches | Columbia Basin

LAKE MOSES – The Moses Lake Fire Department is losing three firefighters as Monday is the deadline for the state’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Fire Chief Brett Bastian said the service would not have “significant levels of experience” as the three employees now out of work include a captain and a lieutenant.

The city said eight firefighters had requested exemptions from the vaccine requirement, which were approved. The city initially granted accommodations to the eight employees before conducting a job assessment to determine if unvaccinated employees could be accommodated.

“Questions that have been asked: are they subject to state licensing? Are they in a location where they would provide direct patient care? Our firefighters live together 24/7. Is there a position where they do not provide direct patient care or have immediate interaction with the staff who do? City officials said.

After the assessment with the staff and Bastian, it was determined that accommodations could not be made.

“Our insurer has advised the city that if we were to take action against the warrants and put an unvaccinated employee in a situation where we receive a claim, then there is no coverage,” city officials said. “We are a city that needs every penny of our reserve funds to strengthen our community’s infrastructure, not to fight lawsuits.”

Six who were granted exemptions have since been vaccinated, city officials said. One of the three leaving the department is retiring and has not requested an exemption.

“We are a municipality subject to federal and state laws that have been issued regarding vaccination warrants,” City Manage Allison Williams said. “We have worked diligently with the International Association of Fire Fighters throughout the compliance process. At the end we will have two firefighters / paramedics leaving town employment and a captain. It was a tough decision and we greatly appreciate the years of service the employees have provided to the city. Firefighters have had an extremely difficult job during COVID providing care to the city’s most vulnerable. We really wish the situation was different. The city is also a recipient of various federal funding sources, so the federal mandate is also being assessed. “

Bastian says the department has a plan in place to move forward with interim firefighters to fill the gaps temporarily before new hires can be made.

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