Letters to the Editor

This week, we received many letters about Vashon Island Fire and Rescue’s chief.

FIRE DISTRICT

Krimmert’s example not good leadership

Where I come from, leaders lead by example. After having worked as a front line volunteer for VashonBePrepared and CERT for the last 18 months at both the testing and vaccine sites, and having seen over 100 volunteers serve their community, in part by getting vaccinated, Chief Krimmert’s example is not what I consider good leadership. The fact that he hid his lack of vaccination is doubly troubling after sitting across the table from him recently, unmasked. There is a point in leadership when “the cause” is more important than personal preference.

Allen de Steiguer

FIRE DISTRICT

Loss of faith in VIFR

In the 45 years that I have lived on Vashon, I have held a deep trust in our fire district and EMTs. Should they have reason to come to my side in an emergency, I would be in good, safe hands.

I no longer feel that way. With the news that our fire chief is choosing not to be vaccinated, and continues to go out on calls as an EMT, I am afraid. As a cancer patient, my immune system is compromised, leaving me vulnerable to COVID in the presence of unvaccinated caregivers.

This does not make sense, that a civic leader in our community, who deals face to face with people in emergencies, is unvaccinated.

Please, sir, do not come to my side if a 911 call is made on my behalf. You could possibly save my life and give me COVID. No thank you.

Beth White

FIRE DISTRICT

Don’t change chief’s job description

Covid deaths are now well over 1,000 per day and that number is rising rapidly. Hospitals are full again — nearly all are unvaccinated. This is a crisis that demands action from our elected officials. State and county officials have responded by instituting vaccine mandates. Against this backdrop, VIFR’s board is considering changing the job description of our unvaccinated fire chief to exempt him.

Altering the chief’s job description to allow him to remain at his position would put the chief, his co-workers, the people he serves, our community, and anyone he encounters at greater risk of contracting a serious and potentially fatal illness. It would erode the purpose of the mandate. If the Chief were to infect someone, one could imagine the families of that person considering legal action against the VIFR Board for allowing the Chief to evade the mandate. Exempting him from the mandate puts him, and all of us, in greater danger.

Chief Krimmert’s reasoning for refusing to be vaccinated, which has caused the community to question the integrity of our Fire Department in general, is not that he is against the vaccine, rather he says he does not want the “Governor making decisions for me.” He describes his protest as “leadership.” This juvenile and self-serving rationale has the great majority of us questioning the overall competence of our fire chief. However, my desired outcome is not to see the Chief terminated. For the sake of our community and Chief Krimmert, I would much prefer to have him get vaccinated.

The mandate gives the VIFR board great leverage to make that happen and they have a moral responsibility to do so by alerting him that his job description will not be changed, and he will face certain termination if he decides not to be vaccinated.

Jesse Foster

FIRE DISTRICT

Krimmert showed poor judgment in crisis

Judgment. The public is rightly entitled to leaders who exercise good judgment, based upon facts and reason. Mr. Krimmert’s decision not to become vaccinated reflects neither. His poor judgment is particularly glaring because it pertains directly to the most acute threat to public health Vashon residents have faced in generations. His poor judgment in this context alone renders him unfit for leadership of the District. Accordingly, if he fails to become vaccinated he should be terminated.

The judgment of you, the Commissioners, is also now at issue. You have the authority, as a matter of district policy, to require vaccination of all District employees, and you should do so. Therefore whether the Governor’s order applies to Mr. Kimmert is essentially a red herring. Nor should you countenance Mr. Krimmert’s behavior by reclassifying his duties. You have a duty to Vashon residents to employ a fire chief who exercises good judgment in a crisis, and in this Mr. Krimmert has failed.

Robert D. Tobin

FIRE DISTRICT

Questions for Fire Commissioners

I was surprised and dismayed to read that Fire Chief Krimmert does not plan to be vaccinated against COVID-19 despite Washington’s recent mandate — and the fact that he has overseen the island’s Community Emergency Response Team and Medical Reserve Corps. If he is released from his duty as an EMT, as he hopes, will the island need to hire an additional EMT? And if he loses his job as fire chief, will we be responsible for paying the remainder of his salary or a severance?

Pamela Houghton

FIRE DISTRICT

Drama at VIFR needs to end

The VIFR Board made the wrong decision Thursday night not to fire the fire chief immediately.

I liked the chief, and I appreciated his active role in supporting Neighborhood Emergency Response organizations and other crisis response teams on the island. However, by refusing to get vaccinated (and not just in response to the governor’s mandate, which was the story he told at the meeting; he has had more than a year to get vaccinated), he has jeopardized the health and well-being of others. Protocols in place are not foolproof and only a fool would act as if they were.

Most importantly, Krimmert has violated the trust of those who identified him as a representative of important healthcare teams on the island. He demonstrated leadership previously, now he can be nothing more than an overpaid administrator. No one should have confidence in him.

Since Krimmert will not comply with the terms of his employment, he should be terminated. Meanwhile, his pay should be cut by at least one-third — likely more — so others who are vaccinated can be hired to complete his healthcare duties and then replace him altogether by Oct. 19.

I suggest, too, that if individual VIFR Board members cannot do what is needed — fire this chief — they should not expect to be reelected. We need the drama to end sooner rather than later. End it by firing this chief, and since he has deceived us and you, fire him now.

Linda Dawson

FIRE DISTRICT

Keep Fire Chief

While I am on record in opposition to the unnecessary yearly increases in the VIFR levy, I am confident Vashon is and will continue to be a safer place to live because of Charlie Krimmert’s efforts. I trust Charlie already is going above and beyond what is needed to prevent a COVID infection. That said, requiring weekly testing, which is the norm in all nearly all states, except Washington, would provide another layer of safety.

I support vaccinations, but I also support Charlie.

Those who are calling for Charlie’s removal cannot have been paying attention to the challenges VIFR has faced during the past 30 years in attracting and keeping a competent fire chief. Since this situation is a result of the pandemic, we should look to our MRC who stated “…no other chief we served has done as much to support the work of the VashonBePrepared coalition.”

Changing leadership in the middle of this pandemic, along with our extreme fire danger, would be a terrible idea. The only people whose opinion matters are the firefighters. If they have a vote of “no confidence,” I would support Charlie’s removal. Otherwise, he should be allowed to continue the great job he is doing. I fully support Charlie continuing as Fire Chief, without his EMT designation. Of course, there should be a reduction in pay to reflect his diminished responsibilities. It is wonderful that Charlie proposed a win-win solution so VIFR can comply with state law and we can keep our fire chief.

Scott Harvey

FIRE DISTRICT

Response by board too slow

Thank you for your solid editorial about Chief Krimmert’s irresponsible and reckless arrogance where community COVID protection is concerned.

I’m glad you mentioned the distress presented to island residents who may be fearful of reprisals for publicly criticizing VIFR staff and commissioners. As far-fetched as it may be to think that emergency staff might respond slowly to calls from VIFR critics, it’s a very real fear for some, and it’s a fear that VIFR needs to put to rest with a public acknowledgment and firm assurance to the contrary.

Speaking of VIFR response times, maintaining a wall of uncertainty and mistrust between VIFR and the citizens who rely on them and fund them is also unhealthy. Chief Krimmert’s continuing personal disregard for doing what’s right and doing what’s reasonably expected of him as a fire chief demands his immediate dismissal.

This nonsense has smoldered long enough.

John van Amerongen

FIRE CHIEF

Issue is black and white

Fire him. I do not care about your feelings or his history. This issue is black and white and cannot be allowed to stand. Get vaccinated or get lost. I cannot believe this isn’t the easiest decision the council has ever made. Grow up and do your job. That goes for everyone!

Phillip Featherstone

FIRE DISTRICT

Give Chief deadline

The recent decision by the Vashon Island Fire and Rescue Commission regarding Chief Charles Krimmert’s vaccination status was only a half-step. They should not have resorted to this half-measure. The coronavirus pandemic is a critical public health emergency, burning unchecked for nearly two years. Widespread vaccination is the only public response that can effectively contain the blaze. Every effort therefore must be made to encourage and incentivize vaccination for as many of us as possible. Chief Krimmert’s example is a public health danger. The chief’s effectiveness as an administrator — though real — is beside the point. So too, sadly, is his reputation for personal affability and community service. The right course for the commission is this: set a deadline, say September 14, for the chief to declare to the commission in writing that he will be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. In the absence of such a declaration, the commissioners should regretfully terminate his appointment.

Rich Murphy


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