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Fire departments get community support

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SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - People may not walk around every day thankful they have a fire department in their town, but that can change when they have to call them.

It changed for Steve and Sue Weigel, who had to call Eastside Fire and Rescue (EFR) a couple of times in recent months to come to their North Bend home. Steve's heart trouble and their granddaughter's seizure reminded the couple of how thankful they were to have a crew at the other end of their 911 call.

"They have done some awesome things for us," Sue said. "We wanted to give them something."

Last week the Weigels and the North Bend Volunteer Firefighters Association wanted to show their support for their emergency medical technicians, so they donated money that allowed the department to buy a glucometer and a dozen oximeters. Glucometers can measure the blood sugar of patients, useful for those suffering from diabetes, and an oximeter measures the level of oxygen in a patient's blood. The machines have long been found in hospitals, but portable versions have made their way into aid cars.

The machines were appreciated additions to the department, which couldn't otherwise afford them.

"Our highest call volume is for emergency medical services," said EFR North Bend Deputy Fire Chief John Murphy. "These are some of the things we can't buy out of our regular budget."

The Snoqualmie Fire Department also recently enjoyed an outpouring of support from the community they serve. After the death of Snoqualmie resident Cleo Wentz on Feb. 17, mourners were asked to donate money to the Snoqualmie Fire Department. Cleo's husband Ed was a volunteer firefighter for 37 years and Cleo herself was a member of the Snoqualmie Firettes, a kind of women's auxiliary to the department that helped out at department events and put together activities for the city's summer festivals.

Cleo also became the voice for KOL 407, the radio frequency that was used by the firefighters to report calls. Before the department got dispatch services in 1971, it used a system of radios and phones when a call came in. Cleo's voice relayed the call over the radio, which was heard by most of the county's fire departments.

"Her voice was heard all over north King County," Ed said. "They [firefighters] would ask where that wonderful Texas accent voice came from."

As the donations came in, Cleo's family asked that Wilbur Fitch, a longtime volunteer firefighter who died Feb. 2, also be honored. So many donations came in that the department was able to buy two glucometers and two oximeters, each in a protective sleeve with Cleo's and Fitch's name on them.

"By the amount received, it was obvious of the positive impact her life had made in our community," said Snoqualmie Fire Department Chief Bob Rowe.

The firefighters in Snoqualmie are also thankful for the donations.

"These are machines that we need," said Snoqualmie Firefighter Darby Summers.

Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com

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