Ferry Tales: Where There's Smoke

Photo by Allen Moe, first on the scene.

Guemes is an Island and nothing brings that to our attention more acutely than medical emergencies or fire. 

The Guemes Fire Chief was off island due to a personal emergency when a fire erupted at an out-building on Holiday Boulevard.

Black smoke could be seen from the Ferry on Tuesday morning, March 30. 

Matt Enos, assistant Fire Chief, got the call, and arrived at the scene in less that 20 minutes. When Matt arrived on scene, he did a initial survey of the situation, communicated with the crew what was needed from the Guemes Island Fire station and which vehicles would be ideal, and also coordinated with the Anacortes Fire Department to provide the necessary support, since their apparatus was the first on the scene. The Guemes Fire Department along with Anacortes Fire kept the blaze contained and prevented it from spreading to nearby structures. Fortunately no one was injured. The Guemes Fire Department remained at the site for about 3 hours watching for smoldering and sparks. That being said, preventing fires from starting is important.

The island is served by Guemes Fire Department. It is a Volunteer organization. Most volunteers have regular jobs as well as their commitment to the Fire Department and they juggle it all quite well.

The Guemes Fire Department works closely with The Anacortes Fire Department, Skagit County Ferry, and mutual aid from many other districts.

This info comes from the Guemes Fire Department website:

Being prepared for wildfires is the best defense. Learn to protect your home in a wild land urban interface from WA DNR Firewise program.

Fire Suppression. Guemes Island has approximately 600 year round residents, with that number about doubling from mid spring through mid fall. During the summer, warm weather can bring in several thousand vacation residents. Recent upgrades to vacation housing has contributed greatly to reducing fire risks, but in many areas houses are on narrow lots creating the potential for the involvement of multiple structures anytime a fire occurs. The island is also heavily wooded making the risk of wildland fires and wildland/urban interface fires a significant issue during the warm, dry days of summer.

With wild fire danger increasing in Western Washington; all of our personnel are trained in the latest techniques to ensure they are safe. We also have the ability to receive mutual aid for many other districts in Skagit, as well as the Department of Natural Resources. 

Guemes Island Fire Department provides first response emergency care 24 hours a day 7 days a week. These services are accessed by calling 911. Our EMS response is two tiered; GIFD responds first with basic life support (BLS) personnel and Anacortes Fire Department provides advanced life support (ALS) care and, when necessary, Medic 1 transport to Island Hospital. If circumstances warrant it, Airlift Northwest provides helicopter transport. [In the event that you are driving a medical emergency off the island yourself, use your car’s emergency blinker lights and proceed to the head of the ferry line.]

Guemes Island emergency medical operations are administered By Chief Medical Officer Eric Kankaala. He supervises and oversees training for the island’s team of emergency medical technicians (EMT’s). This team can provide basic life support including O2 support, CPR, and defibrillation, epinephrine for allergic reactions & narcon for opioid overdose. All EMT’s are certified and registered with Washington State Department of Health and must participate in continuing education annually.

Basic life support operations are supported by a 2005 Medtec ambulance.

Guemes Fire has many volunteer opportunities available. If you are interested please contact:

Chief Olivia Snell - EMT / Fire Fighter - Olivias@guemesfire.org
Assistant Chief Matt Enos - EMT / Fire Fighter - MattE@guemesfire.org
Medical Officer Eric Kankaala - EMT / Fire Fighter - Erick@guemesfire.org


Guemes Fire Department has been commended by Skagit County Board of Commissioners for their response times, (5-15 minutes) particularly on medical calls, as they will often respond in their personal vehicle.

We need to support them for their excellent effort in keeping our island community safe.

-MJ Andrak


"You might be a firefighter if the microwave goes off and you run out of the house thinking it was your pager."