Local EFR responders reflect on the Oso slide

April 8, 2014

By Greg Farrar

Two of our awesome Eastside Fire & Rescue workers each have just spent more than a week helping others responders from Snohomish County at the disastrous Oso mudslide.

Capt. Steve Westlake, Station 72, worked as the command staff chief of operations. Josie Williams, public information officer and education officer, managed the Joint Information Center. These are some of their reflections. — Greg Farrar

Greg Farrar Press photographer

Greg Farrar
Press photographer

“Spending nine full days working 16-hour shifts makes you appreciate the term teamwork, the only way you are able to accomplish goals, work through situations and problems, and support each other each day.

“In Arlington, Oso and Darrington this occurred on a scale much larger than I’ve ever seen before. Everything from a family dropping off cookies at the shelter setup for displaced residents to ensuring responders had enough bottled water at the site.

“At the command post in Arlington, I looked out the second-story window and saw two girls selling lemonade on the sidewalk during spring break for relief efforts. There are many more stories to be told, but all with one theme, people united for a cause.

“We all seem to come into life with a common goal, to help. We all do it in different ways and at different times. Lessons throughout life teach us to help our family and friends in need.

“If this incident occurred in the greater Issaquah, Sammamish, Snoqualmie Valley area, I’m confident that the great stories mentioned earlier would be repeated.” — Steve Westlake

“In the small town of Darrington, everybody knows everybody, and in Oso and Arlington as well. So, there were about 90 people from the community that came forward and said, ‘We’re going to help dig, and we’re going to do it with your approval or not.’

“So, you’re trying to make sure you’re keeping them safe as well. We signed them up, we identified them and then we were out there, giving them different jobs to be working with the responders.

“I literally slept in my van the first night because there wasn’t any lodging. I figured OK, what the heck. And a couple of people found out, so I had people in the community who were ready to put me up while I worked there. It didn’t turn out that I needed it, but it was amazing how people were opening their doors.

“In Issaquah, you’ve got Bret Heath and the folks he has there working with him, doing an excellent job in emergency management. We have CERT folks from Issaquah who were up there, they’ve been training, training, training. We have people who are strong in Issaquah who really do want to take care of the community, and that’s a very comforting thing.”

— Josie Williams


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