SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Some firefighters in the area say they would rather lose their job than get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Of the 300 firefighters in the Spokane Firefighter’s Union (IAFF Local 29), nearly half haven’t been vaccinated and 15 have already expressed they’d rather lose their job, according to President Tim Archer. He said they will be fighting the mandate as a union.
Out of the 170 firefighters in the Spokane Valley Firefighters Association, 60 have not yet turned in a vaccination card or filed an exemption. Of those, 30-40 say they won’t get the vaccine. The union says 10-15 have already said they’d rather quit than get the vaccine. With only 39 firefighters per shift, losing 15 or even more firefighters is a big hit.
“There’s so few resources out there if we even further reducing that into next year. There’s a lot of fires where we’re probably going to be hands-off until we get enough people on the scene to actually enter that into a hazardous environment and try and make a positive impact on that fire,” said Shawn Pichette, president of the Spokane Valley Firefighters Association.
Replacing firefighters isn’t an easy task because new firefighters need a year of probation after training.
“Not to be cliché, but that’s growing pains, right?” Pichette said. “That’s a lot of training, that’s a lot of hand-holding, and it takes, not that we don’t mind it, but it takes away from daily activities like running calls and doing that other priority stuff.”
As a union, they’re trying to determine what they can do to prevent the loss right now.
“We got members trying to figure out, if this does happen, where their next paycheck is going to come from. We’re talking about kids in school, we’re talking about trying to put food on the table, mortgages, and all that stuff, and it’s not for me to decide,” he said. “They’re going to make the choice based on their belief system.”
Pichette said they have requested the governor’s office to allow them to get routine coronavirus tests as another option. They said they think that is a good middle ground.
Governor Jay Inslee has said on several occasions, so far, you can’t test your way around the mandate.