Firefighters, we respect them. We get out of their way when they’re racing to a scene. We crowd around their trucks when they’re at a fair or a parade. We can tend to think that every firefighter is like every other firefighter, hanging out at a fire station while waiting for a call that demands immediate action. Yes, and no.
But what does firefighting look like on an island? Follow along as we discuss firefighting island style.
Firefighting Island Style
Oak Harbor is a city with paid firefighters and a place where a lot is going on in a small space. Trucks have to navigate a grid of streets and the traffic on them. Houses are close and that can mean fires are close, too, but so are fire hydrants. There are plenty of stereotypes that can apply. Spotted mascot optional.
In most parts of the country that might be enough, but the island is large enough and long enough that some other solutions are necessary. If the neighborhood is remote enough, they may have some creative solutions to fight fires in the interim after getting to safety and making that call to 911. An easy situation to imagine is a waterfront house that may require a fireboat. It takes time to collect the crew, launch the boat, and power their way to the site – tides, currents, and weather allowing. A lot can happen in the first few minutes of a fire. Any help can be appreciated – and incredibly valuable.
Rural areas also have to guard against brushfires and barn fires. Long roads mean accidents can happen far from the station. Even places that are accessible by a pickup may be too windy and twisty to maneuver in a firetruck, which eventually also has to turn around and get back to the station. Some fires may even be on boats, both in the marina and off-shore.
A Unique Mix
At the other end of the scale is the unique fire district that is the Navy’s. Airports have special requirements and tools, and military airports have to handle even more specialized situations because of what their planes can carry. The need for an immediate response is an understatement.
Fortunately, while there are various types of firefighting arrangements, when the need is there they all gather to help each other. City, base, and rural doesn’t matter as much as ‘where is the fire and how can we help?’
If you haven’t heard much about the variety, great! That means the crews are doing what they have to do to stay out of the headlines. In firefighting, boring can be good. Too exciting can be too much. This is firefighting island style.
Whidbey has some other attributes worth remembering. Whidbey is a lot of small-town America wrapped around a city and a base. Most of it has fewer people because it is rural. That also means that firefighting crews can sometimes be understaffed. (Pay attention to the election initiatives to see their current situation.) While rural can be quaint, sometimes the small-town nature that leads to smaller firefighting crews becomes critically apparent. A few places have paid firefighters, but much of the island is served by a few stations with a few paid firefighters who rely heavily on backup volunteers. They have rules to follow, just like the rest of us. (In 2018, another fire department in WA was cited for violating the state’s version of OSHA’s two-in two-out requirement.) Of course, more paid firefighters mean they need more budget. Not an easy problem. Think about that. A few paid people; and other people who risk their lives for us for free. They deserve greater thanks than they receive. (Please, volunteer!)
Surprisingly the bulk of their workload comes from medical emergencies. Over 60% of their time is spent with Basic Life Support calls where they work side by side with the paramedics. In some places that is over 80%. They have to be ready for everything: motor vehicle accidents, rescues on land or on water, storm responses, traffic control, power outages, and downed lines. It isn’t just about fires and ambulances.
So much for sitting around the firehouse. These people are busy.
How you can help
Of course, there are ways to keep them less busy (and keep costs down). Much of this is variations of the messages we’ve heard since school: follow safety instructions, keep fresh batteries in smoke detectors, make sure any electrical work is done right, remove trash and other flammables. Some things are even simpler: don’t leave burning candles or fire unattended, don’t burn during burn bans, handle fireworks legally and safely. Keep fire extinguishers handy and up-to-date.
There are plenty of other precautions, but that’s part of being a responsible adult.
How this relates to homeowners on Whidbey
Understanding a place’s fire situation is also something to keep in mind when considering buying a house. What is the firefighters’ response time? Where’s the nearest hydrant or nearest firehouse (is it even staffed)? Is the house marked well enough for a crew to be able to find it in the dark, maybe during a storm? Your insurance company may have some ideas to add to the list.
If you live in rural Island County some additional services they might offer include: installing high visibility house address numbers; home safety surveys to reduce the risk of harm from fire, accident, or illness; smoke and carbon monoxide detector check; fire inspections for businesses; CPR training; child car seat safety checks.
Chief Helm says “In an emergency, we need to be as efficient as possible, and the partnership between homeowners and the fire department is critical. Maintaining reflective address signs and driveways that fire trucks can navigate down is very important. One of our biggest hurdles is locating the emergency in a hurry, and then navigating a driveway that may or may not be able to handle a 40,000lb, 11-foot tall truck. Many times, the storybook-style narrow wandering lane, sounds peaceful and relaxing, but can pose serious problems if our trucks cannot access your house. Please remember to maintain not only driveways but the surrounding vegetation and hanging branches that will damage a truck the size of ours. Together with your help, we make this Island a safer place to live and work. We are more than happy to visit your driveway and test fit our apparatus, as well as bring you a reflective address sign anytime.”
One of the most delightful rural traditions on Whidbey is the annual Santa Mobile where Central Whidbey Fire Department drives around different neighborhoods with Santa Claus on top of one of their Fire Engine for multiple nights in a row in December. They will put out a schedule and a map on their Facebook page in preparation every year. Kids love it! It’s also a fundraiser for collecting food and donations for the food pantry in Coupeville.
Fortunately, most folks pay attention to safety. It’s part of being a homeowner and a good neighbor. Do enough of those boring but necessary steps, and free up time to relax and enjoy the rest of island life. Just check for burn bans before stoking up a campfire.
If you have additional questions about firefighting island style your reliable Windermere real estate agent can help you get them answered. Don’t have an agent? Connect with us here.
Island Transit is the public transportation system serving Whidbey Island, located in the Puget Sound region of Washington state. The system consists of fixed-route buses and paratransit vans, as well as additional programs such as vanpools and bike locker rentals.
Island Transit began on December 1, 1987 as a response to the increasing traffic congestion and lack of transportation options on Whidbey Island. Today, the system serves a population of approximately 73,000 people, covering a service area of approximately 400 square miles. The buses pick up passengers from bus stops like the Northgate Terrace bus stop pictured above throughout all of Whidbey Island.
In addition to its fixed-route buses, Island Transit also operates a paratransit service for individuals with disabilities who are unable to use the fixed-route buses. The paratransit vans offer door-to-door service and can be reserved by calling Island Transit in advance.
Island Transit’s vanpool program is a convenient and cost-effective alternative for commuters who travel long distances or have irregular work schedules. Participants in the program share the cost of gas and vehicle maintenance and can save money on the cost of driving alone.
The bike locker rental program allows riders to securely store their bike at a convenient location and use it to complete the first or last leg of their commute. The lockers are located at select bus stops and can be rented on a monthly basis (check out prices and apply here) in addition to public use lockers that are on a first come first served basis.
In recent years, Island Transit has made efforts to increase sustainability and reduce its environmental impact. Learn more about their initiatives here. As a result, hybrid buses have been added to its fleet all while keeping Island Transit buses fare-free.
Overall, Island Transit plays a vital role in the transportation needs of the residents and visitors of Whidbey Island. The convenient and reliable services, as well as its vanpool and bike locker rental programs, make it a valuable asset to the community.
If you have further questions or are interested in learning more about living on Whidbey Island please do not hesitate to connect with us. Contact us here.
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Whidbey Island is a beautiful and picturesque destination located in the Puget Sound, just a short ferry ride from Seattle. With its stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and abundance of outdoor activities, it’s no wonder that Whidbey Island is a popular destination for travelers and residents alike. In this blog, we will explore the top 10 best things about Whidbey Island, from its scenic beauty to its thriving arts and culture scene.
Top 10 Best Things About Whidbey Island
- Scenic beauty: Whidbey Island is known for its breathtaking views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Whether you are driving along the winding roads or hiking through the forests, you will be treated to stunning vistas at every turn.
- Outdoor activities: With its numerous parks, trails, and beaches, Whidbey Island is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you are into hiking, biking, kayaking, or just soaking up the sun on the beach, there is something for everyone on this beautiful island. One of our favorites is Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve in Coupeville.
- Small-town charm: Despite its proximity to Seattle, Whidbey Island has a laid-back, small-town feel that is perfect for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The island’s charming towns and villages offer a variety of local shops, restaurants, and breweries that are worth exploring.
- Local produce and seafood: Whidbey Island is known for its rich agricultural heritage, and the island is home to a number of farms that produce fresh, locally grown produce. The island is also home to a thriving seafood industry, with local fishermen bringing in a variety of fresh, locally caught seafood. Seabolts comes highly recommended.
- Wineries and breweries: Whidbey Island is home to a number of wineries and breweries that offer tastings and tours. These local businesses offer a chance to sample some of the best wines and beers produced on the island.
- Arts and culture: Whidbey Island is home to a thriving arts scene, with numerous galleries, theaters, and music venues that offer a variety of performances and exhibitions throughout the year. The island is also home to a number of festivals and events that celebrate the island’s rich cultural heritage.
- Accommodations: Whether you are looking for a luxury resort or a cozy bed and breakfast, Whidbey Island has a wide range of accommodations to choose from. The island’s many hotels, inns, and vacation rentals offer a variety of options for travelers of all budgets and preferences.
- Dining: With its abundance of locally grown produce and seafood, it is no surprise that Whidbey Island is home to some excellent restaurants. From seafood shacks to fine dining establishments like Frasers Gourmet Hideaway or China City, the island has something for every taste and budget.
- History and heritage: Whidbey Island has a rich history and cultural heritage that is worth exploring. The island is home to a number of historic sites, including Fort Casey State Park, which offers a glimpse into the island’s military past.
- Accessibility: Despite its rural location, Whidbey Island is easily accessible from Seattle and other major cities in the region. The island is just a short ferry ride away, making it a perfect getaway for those looking to escape the city for a few days.
Whidbey Island is a truly special place that has something for everyone. From its breathtaking views and outdoor activities to its charming small towns and delicious local cuisine, there’s no shortage of things to see and do on this beautiful island. Whether you are planning a weekend getaway or a longer vacation, Whidbey Island is the perfect destination for those who love nature, culture, and a slower pace of life.
If you are thinking about moving to Whidbey or just have questions about the area please do not hesitate to connect with us here.
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Gracing the waters of Penn Cove floats a particularly unique & quite famous feature of our island. Wood & rope intertwine to create seemingly countless rafts bobbing on the waves above and creating magic below… You may not know this, but Island county is home to the oldest & largest mussel farm in the United States. Penn Cove Mussels, Inc. began culturing mussels in 1975 with the desire to harness the cove’s naturally nutrient-rich water to harvest bigger and better mussels than the ones currently available on the market. The results were incredible! Penn Cove mussels grow at a remarkable rate, enabling the mussels to reach harvest size within one year. This rapid growth rate causes Penn Cove mussels to have a firmer texture, sweeter flavor, and a thinner shell with more meat. These crowd-pleasing mussels are a favorite of chefs all over the country and with only two hours separating Penn Cove from the Sea-Tac Airport; mussels harvested in the morning are easily on dinner plates in Houston by the evening. To read more about this local aquaculture visit our blog here.
Follow the photographer on Instagram @abhithapa.art
Check out the rest of Whidbey’s beautiful destinations from this series here.
Every city or county has that one thing they are famous for. Their claim to fame that puts them on the world map. For some it is a world-famous sports team, others it is a historical location, still some gain fame from the presence of rare exotic animals.
For Island County, it is our mussels.
No, not the Emerald Cup kind of muscles we didn’t make a typo, we mean our Penn Cove mussels.
The History of Penn Cove Mussels
You may not know this, but Island county is home to the oldest and largest mussel farm in the United States (and maybe the world). Penn Cove Mussels, Inc. began culturing mussels in 1975 with the desire to harness the cove’s naturally nutrient-rich water to harvest bigger and better mussels than the ones currently available. The results were incredible! Penn Cove mussels grow at a remarkable rate, enabling the mussels to reach harvest size within one year. This rapid growth rate causes Penn Cove mussels to have a firmer texture, sweeter flavor, and a thinner shell with more meat. As you can imagine, it makes them quite a crowd-pleaser.
Whidbey Island’s proximity to Seattle and the Sea-Tac Airport mean these wonderful shellfish don’t have to be a local secret. Instead, these mussels are quickly air-shipped all over the world for others to experience and enjoy. Mussels harvested in the morning are on the lunch plates of Seattle seafood lovers by that afternoon and dinner entrees in Houston by the evening.
Celebrated with a Festival
35 years our Penn Cove Mussels have been celebrated with a festival. The original celebrations consisted of a community chowder contest that has morphed over the years into 3 days’ worth of activities and fun. The most recent events have attracted more than 6,000 mussels enthusiasts from far and wide. This event alone significantly helps the local merchants recover from the slow winter months.
Musselfest festivities typically kick off on a Friday with the “Mussel Mingle.” This is a time where people gather at the Coupeville Recreational Hall to enjoy food, drink, and music. The next two days are packed full of mussel cooking demonstrations from incredible Seattle chefs, the massive mussel chowder competition involving 16 different local restaurants, the mussel eating competition, tours of Penn Cove Shellfish, Inc., a mountain bike event (“Mussels in the Kettles”) and more!
Musselfest is a massive community affair that requires all hands on deck to pull off. Dozens of volunteers from all over Coupeville donate their time, finances, and resources to make this festival work. For the past few years, Windermere Whidbey agents have volunteered their time at the Waterfront Beer Garden where they serve up some great local ale while listening to amazing local musicians.
Unfortunately, like most events, the Penn Cove Musselfest was canceled due to Covid this past year, but the long-standing love for the festival carried on with the traditional T-Shirt and posters for all of the collectors. Past posters can be purchased here while supplies last.
The 2022 Musselfest is anticipated to take place March 4th, 5th, and 6th pending the state of Covid and guidance from the state and county. Click here to check the status.
After purchasing 15.1 acres in 2008 conservationist Scott Price and his family decided to develop their home elsewhere. After doing so they journeyed down a long road of determining what to do with the property before concluding a sanctuary where art and nature entangle as one. After years of dedicated time and development, they unveiled The Price Sculpture Forest to visitors on October 23, 2020.
the community’s solution to the Prices issue was to clear cut the forest to create clear views of Penn Cove and Mount Baker then subdivide it for residential development. Price’s inner conscious could not allow that to happen. Price had other plans. Price wanted to conserve the property and protect it for years to come. While it would be a challenging road ahead Price rolled up his sleeves and got to work. After reaching out to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust who reached out to the US Navy to aid in preserving the property a creative plan had begun to make Price’s dreams a reality. Price purchased two smaller adjacent parcels bringing the total property to 16.3 acres.
The Price Sculpture Forest. A place where visitors are welcomed to the property to experience a magical place where nature and art entangle as one. As you walk down the trails you encounter art exhibits, many of which play on the existing natural habitat. A prime example is Nature’s Keystone by Anthony Heinz May who used a fallen tree and cut up bits of one end into square blocks designing the fallen tree to look like a living masterpiece exploding right out of nature. Turn another corner and come face-to-face with Tyrannosaurus Rex a driftwood masterpiece by Joe Treat that might catch you off guard.
Feel in awe as you walk beneath the Flying Fish by Daniella Rubinovitz and wonder how they got the incredible piece of work up there.
The best part of the journey is that the park is still growing. You might find yourself lucky enough to meet an artist on your trip like we did.
Visitors and residents alike find continued joy from Prices’ selfless act as they return to the sanctuary to be close to nature and enjoy the local art exhibits. This is just one of the many gems that make Whidbey Island such a unique and wonderful place to live. If you enjoy this you might also enjoy visiting the Earth Sanctuary between Freeland and Langley.
In 1850, local history was made on the shores of Whidbey Island when Isaac Ebey landed on a rocky westside beach and became the first official white settler on the island. With an entire island to choose from, Ebey couldn’t have done much better than the pristine pastureland of what is now known as Ebey’s Landing. This brilliant landscape is situated right at the southwestern side of Coupeville and features breathtaking views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountain range. The landing’s soft rolling hills blanketed in rich soil—perfect for cultivating crops—was this area’s true draw to its original settler. Today this landscape remains largely unchanged from the early days of settlers thanks to Ebey’s Landing Reserve. It’s the perfect place for a long walk to get lost in the life of the past.
Check out the rest of Whidbey’s beautiful destinations from this series here.
In the late 1850’s, word of the Indian Wars came to Whidbey Island encouraging settlers to construct blockhouses as an effort to protect their families and land. After several other blockhouses were built by other settlers Col. Walter Crockett built his own in 1857. These houses were small two-story buildings built with logs placed horizontally parallel to each other. The top story was considerably larger than the bottom with numerous gun ports to provide visual access from all directions.
Luckily, no war or invasion ever transpired and the blockhouses were never used for their intended purposes. Many became storage locations for goods and one even became a law office. Over the years many were repaired and transformed into historic monuments.
Today, the Crockett blockhouse is one of four that remain part of the Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve and have been maintained to preserve this piece of history.
Check out the rest of Whidbey’s beautiful destinations from this series here.