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A Day in the Life with Bonnie Cobb, Spokane Fire District 5 Commissioner

Author:  Bonnie Cobb, Spokane Fire District 5

Bonnie Cobb began her work with Spokane County Fire District 5 as a volunteer 12 years ago and is now a Fire Commissioner for Spokane County Fire District 5.  Bonnie represents the Four Mound Firewise Community and has participated in the Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network since 2015.

1.  Has FAC always been a part of your job duties in your current position? If not, what led you to working on FAC issues?

A Chief from a neighboring fire district told me that the next ‘big fire’ in Spokane County would be in Spokane County Fire District 5’s service area.  I asked, “Why?”  His response:  mixed terrain and an all volunteer district “it takes volunteers longer to get to a scene”.   When I returned to my home District, I shared what I had learned and said “we have to do something!”  I started going to meetings and asking “what can a District do to help prevent fires in the future?”  Guy Gifford, the Washington Department of Natural Resources Wildfire Specialist, took me aside and told me about Firewise Communities.  The rest is history.  With a lot of help from key partners, we worked with residents and landowners to form the Four Mound Firewise Community.

2.  Tell us about your job.

District 5’s work with the Four Mound Firewise Community is very rewarding!  By hosting educational events and implementing an address signage program, we supply residents with resources (e.g., outreach materials for adults and children, smoke detectors) to prepare their homes and families for wildfire.

3.  Tell us about a project that you are currently working on.

As an on-call fire district, how fast we arrive may impact the way in which we respond to a fire or any other emergency; and sometimes the speed at which we arrive at a scene is influenced by our ability to find an address in a rural area.  Reflective address signs can improve our response time–which can save homes, wildlife, natural resources and limit fires from growing larger or becoming major wildland fires.

The Spokane County Fire District 5 address sign. Photo credit: Bethany Cobb

Our Chief’s goal is to post a reflective address sign at every residence within the district. With the support of a grant obtained by the Spokane Conservation District, we are able to provide 85% of the residents with reflective address signs and, if needed, support installation!

4.  Who will you work with today?

Today we will be working with the Four Mound Firewise Community, Spokane County Fire District 5, and Spokane Conservation District to install reflective signs and with the Washington Department of Natural Resources or the Spokane Conservation District to help us with wildfire risk home assessments.

5.  When you get back to the office, what kind of unexpected things come up?

More requests for address signs!  As of recently, we even had a new Firewise Community who would like support to install a map of their neighborhood to help with ingress and egress.

6.  What inspires or motivates you to do this work?

We do this work to facilitate a positive outcome when faced with a disaster:  the work that the Firewise community such as fuel reduction, signage, and educational events will help all of us live in a safer community.

7.  Work is over; what’s next?

Our team will continue to work together to install more address signs, complete fuel reduction projects, and help residents be resilient in the time of a disaster!

8.  If you were writing your FAC memoir, what would you last sentence be?

Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress. Working together is a success.                 – Henry Ford