An era came to an end July 7 in Yakima County Fire District 5.
Richard Lommers retired after 50 years, seven months and seven days of service as a volunteer in the geographically largest fire district in the state, covering a large portion of the Lower Yakima Valley.
“I wanted to get to the 50-year mark,” said Lommers, who rose to the rank of lieutenant before taking advantage of a program that allowed retired firefighters to come back to work without endangering their pensions. ”For safety and stuff, I thought it was time to let the younger ones take over.”
Chief Kevin Frazier said Lommers’ departure leaves a big gap in the department’s institutional memory.
“It’s the end of an era of those guys,” Frazier said. “He was the last of the group that started that station and that era.”
Lommers saw firefighting evolve over the decades. Equipment and training standards changed and firefighters took on medical duties.
It also got harder to recruit volunteer firefighters.
For Lommers, firefighting has been a family affair. His two brothers helped establish the Gamache Station on Ashue Road.
At that time, recruits saw action a lot sooner.
“When I joined, you didn’t have the recruit training and stuff you have today,” Lommers said. “If you were warm and had a desire to do it, you were in.”
Some of the training took place on the job, and the gear was less sophisticated than it is today. Firefighters were issued a coat, pants, boots, helmet and a uniform.
Now, Lommers said, firefighters have more gear, including fire-resistant clothing. Breathing units also switched from masks that would deliver oxygen each time a firefighter took a breath
to positive-pressure masks that are designed to keep toxic gases out while delivering breathable air.
Sirens were used to alert firefighters to calls instead of the electronic devices used today, Lommers said.
While there are more than a few calls Lommers said he wished he didn’t have to remember, he did recall one for a fire at a hop kiln. While fire, particularly from spontaneous combustion, is not unusual in the hop industry, Lommers said this fire stood out because it was the only time he could recall having to use almost every piece of equipment on the fire truck.
“We stripped the truck,” Lommers recalled. “There was only one section of hose left on it. Talk about a bare truck.”
Lommers said the volunteer firefighters spent the better part of the night battling the fire, and the chief had the volunteers go home that morning to rest, with career firefighters taking over and cleaning up the scene.
The department added emergency medical service to its duties, which meant he and the other firefighters were cross-trained as emergency medical technicians. When a medical call comes in, a fire crew responds first and starts treatment before the ambulance arrives.
“When we first started doing EMS calls, it was major things,” Lommers said. “Now, there are things that you get called for that if they would, they could just get in the car and go to the doctor’s office. But it’s free and people want to use it.”
Like many of the volunteer firefighters in the district, Lommers balanced his fire service with his career teaching social studies at Toppenish High School for 34 years.
With his retirement from teaching, Lommers became the primary daytime responder for the station, Frazier said.
When he turned 65, Lommers faced retirement from the department, but a program allowed retired firefighters to be rehired while maintaining their pensions. But that meant Lommers had to return to being a regular firefighter instead of an officer, and he had to recertify as a combat firefighter who could go into burning buildings.
He did that for the next seven years, but at 72, he is not as agile as he was in his youth, which could be a matter of life or death for him and other firefighters.
“I don’t want to put others in danger,” Lommers said. “If they go down, can I do everything to help them?”
Frazier said the department is about half its strength from the 1980s, when he started. Lommers thinks it’s because people no longer have a commitment to community service.
“We need to be working with young people and showing them that this is a way to give back to your community,” Lommers said.
That has been the case in his own family.
Kendra Bauer, Lommers’ daughter, said the importance of the fire service was instilled in her at an early age. The family would sometimes have holiday dinners at the station house to accommodate those who were on duty.
“We incorporated it into our normal family life,” Bauer said.
And, while she can’t recall how it started, her father took her out on fire calls, where she would sit in the cab of the truck while he and the other firefighters worked. It was something she always wanted to do.
“I was told not to push any buttons in the truck,” Bauer said.
Her father also helped with her senior project in high school, It was on firefighting.
Bauer began her career as a volunteer firefighter in 1999 and became captain of the station where her father was an officer.
“He supported me 100% of the way,” Bauer said.
Her husband Daren and cousins Landon and Charity Lommers serve at the station as volunteer firefighters.
But she said her father will be missed.
“We lost a huge asset with a ton of knowledge,” Bauer said.
ATLANTA — Protests took a violent turn in several U.S. cities over the weekend with demonstrators squaring off against federal agents outside a courthouse in Portland forcing police in Seattle to retreat into a station house and setting fire to vehicles in California and Virginia.
A protest against police violence in Austin, Texas, turned deadly when police said a protester was shot and killed by a person who drove through a crowd of marchers. And someone was shot and wounded in Aurora, Colo., after a car drove through a protest there, authorities said.
The unrest Saturday and early Sunday stemmed from the weeks of protests over racial injustice and the police treatment of people of color that flared up after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, who was Black and handcuffed, died after a white police officer used his knee to pin down Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes while Floyd begged for air.
In Seattle, police officers retreated into a precinct station early Sunday, hours after large demonstrations in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Some demonstrators lingered after officers filed into the department’s East Precinct around 1 a.m., but most cleared out a short time later.
In Portland, thousands of people gathered Saturday evening for another night of protests over George Floyd’s killing and the presence of federal agents recently sent to the city by President Donald Trump. Protesters breached a fence surrounding the city’s federal courthouse building where the agents have been stationed.
Police declared the situation to be a riot and at around 1:20 a.m., they began ordering people to leave the area surrounding the courthouse or risk arrest, saying on Twitter that the violence had created “a grave risk” to the public.
In the Texas capital of Austin, 28-year-old Garrett Foster was shot and killed Saturday night by a person who had driven through the march against police violence.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said a car turned onto the block where protesters stood and honked its horn. The driver and several witnesses told police that Foster approached the driver and pointed an assault rifle at them.
Manley said the driver called 911 to report the incident and was later taken into custody and released. Police didn’t immediately identify the driver.
In the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo., meanwhile, a protester shot and wounded someone after a car drove through a crowd marching on an interstate highway, police said. The wounded person was taken to a hospital in stable condition.
Protesters in Oakland, Calif., set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station, broke windows, spray-painted graffiti, shot fireworks and pointed lasers at officers after a peaceful demonstration Saturday evening turned to unrest, police said.
In Virginia’s capital, Richmond, a dump truck was torched as several hundred protesters and police faced off late Saturday.
during a demonstration of support for the protesters in Portland. Police declared it to be an “unlawful assembly” at around 11 p.m. and used what appeared to be tear gas to disperse the group. Five people were arrested in the incident and charged with unlawful assembly. A sixth person was also arrested and charged with rioting and assault on a law enforcement officer.
In downtown Atlanta on Sunday, federal agents examined damage to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility where windows were shattered late Saturday. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said in an email. No arrests had been announced.
And in Baltimore, people from a group of nearly 100 demonstrators spray-painted anti-police messages on a Fraternal Order of Police building and adjacent sidewalks on Saturday night, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Associated Press writers Gillian Flaccus and Sara Cline in Portland and Sally Ho and Chris Grygiel in Seattle contributed to this report.
Temperatures will be at or just above 100 for much of this week, according to the National Weather Service.
The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for Yakima Valley and several other areas in Central and Eastern Washington and Oregon. The advisory is in effect from noon Monday to 8 p.m. Thursday.
Some areas could see temperatures as high as 110 degrees, but highs are expected to range from 99 degrees to 106 degrees.
In the Yakima Valley, high temperatures will be in the low 100s Monday through Thursday, said Amy Adams, assistant forecaster for the National Weather Service in Pendleton, Ore.
Overnight lows Monday through Thursday are expected to hover in the mid to upper 60s.
“It’s not going to be enough time to cool down,” Adams said.
The National Weather Service advises that residents of areas in the heat advisory drink plenty of fluids, stay in air-conditioned rooms, avoid the sun and check on relatives and neighbors. When possible, schedule strenuous activities in the early morning or evening.
The Yakima Valley should see relief from the heat by Friday when the high temperature will drop to 91 degrees. Temperatures during the weekend are expected to be in the upper 80s.
The Yakima Health District reported 43 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the total number to 10,114.
There were no new deaths, which remain at 191. All but 11 people who died had existing health conditions.
The number of people hospitalized was at 31, an increase of three from Saturday, with four patients on ventilators.
Health officials said 7,372 people have recovered.
The Yakima Health District will be taking down its flag display at Chesterley Park on Monday. The field of more than 8,000 red and black flags represented every Yakima County resident who tested positive for the coronavirus or who died from COVID-19 through early July.
The display was intended to remind residents of the impact COVID-19 continues to have on the county and the importance of staying vigilant about safety measures, including physical distancing and mask-wearing.
The idea for the display came from Leola Reeves, who shared the story of the impact of COVID-19 had on her stepfather. While he recovered from COVID-19, he experienced permanent lung damage. Reeves is also the creator of the “I love someone with COVID-19” Facebook group.
On the Facebook page Sunday, Reeves encouraged residents to grab flags and show support with their own displays. Reeves said she planned to display a red flag in her yard for her stepfather.
COVID-19 testing, conducted by members of National Guard, will be available at the following community sites and times this week:
Testing is now being done for anyone with symptoms, no matter how mild, and all asymptomatic people with a high risk of exposure, including those in households and close contacts of cases and persons exposed in outbreak settings.
Appointments can be made for testing by calling 2-1-1.
The nonprofit group Medical Teams International will also be offering testing this week at the following sites: