Chelan County Fire District 5

 COVID-19 test distribution program

People who live in Manson hear it all the time: So…where’s Manson?

If you know, you know – it’s a beautiful place. But if you don’t know: Manson is a small, scenic community, home to world-famous apple orchards, located on the North shores of Lake Chelan, seven miles from the community of Chelan.  

While a seven mile trip to Chelan may not seem far for some, it can be depending on what you need, how quickly you need it, and your ability to safely get there. For Chief Arnold Baker of Chelan County Fire District 5, Manson Fire Department, he knew he wanted to eliminate that trip for his community members and increase local access to free testing. That is why Chief Baker reached out to WA COVID-19, which equips First Responders with COVID-19 tests.

“I reached out to the WA COVID-19 Program to say we wanted to do this because there’s not a test pick-up location in Manson. People go through Chelan often, but wouldn’t it be nice to have an option to just come down to the fire station to pick up test kits? There are elevated services in Chelan, but I wanted to have that distribution point in our community,” Chief Baker explains.

Chief Baker is the first to admit how lucky Manson is to have such high-level resources only seven miles away in Chelan. “Kudos to the hospital district – they were the lead,” he says. The EMS Director, Ray Eickmeyer, quickly became an expert and leader on COVID prevention and mitigation, so Chief Baker and the community had “this wonderful resource next door.”

But having tests available locally, where community members can easily access them can make a big difference.

Local access to tests means more people know their COVID-19 status and there’s less spread in the community. Before partnering with WA COVID-19, there were tests available in Manson, but there were no resources to organize or even publicize the process. Chief Baker describes it as “kinda like stumbling over an opportunity rather than it being intentional.” Now, Chief Baker and Reggie Trusel, Chelan County Fire District 5’s Administrative Assistant, have communications and publicity covered for WA COVID-19 tests. According to Reggie, “It was pretty easy to get the word out.” But it was only easy because they’ve been so engaged and integrated into the community for years. You can’t build that trust overnight, and they didn’t have to.

They share all COVID-19 testing information on the Chelan County Fire District 5, Manson Fire Department website in both English and Spanish. They also communicate directly with the Chamber of Commerce, the high school, grade school, and the local agricultural employers. They post on the Fire Association Facebook page and circulate information in the newspaper. Chief Baker even joins a monthly program at the radio station to talk up the benefit of getting tests locally.

“When a family has an outbreak – it’s been very nice to support that family. When one person in the family has it, we can say, ‘Ok, you don’t need two tests, you need more. So here’s a box of 5 because not only does your family member need it, now you need testing too.’ So we push to support this idea of let’s test the family to see if we can’t catch the outbreak in the house and not let it get away.”

It’s good science. It’s good policy. And it’s just convenient.

Reggie explains, “It adds convenience for people. It’s important to make it easier for people when they’re sick. Because they don’t know and they’re asking themselves: Is this a cold? Is this COVID? Am I contagious? When can I go out? There are so many questions and they just don’t know. If we can make it that they can come in and test to see if they have COVID or not, that helps.

“And whatever we face in the future – if there’s a new disease, a new pandemic – we have a road map now. Right now, it’s slowed down. But we know we need to be ready to resend information when summer hits and there’s an influx of people visiting.”

Chief Baker agrees, “I think we’re doing the right thing for the community. Having that distribution site is really the right thing for us. In this community – when you say: ‘Go to the fire station’ – people will come to this office. They know. Community knowledge is what makes this the best fit for us. And good testing helps keep cases identified and keeps folks isolated until they can get through it.

“I wish we had access to these a lot sooner. We are the right point for distribution. We already had the training, we just needed a source for tests and you guys stepped up to be that source – and it was fantastic.”

Key champion

Ray Eickmeyer, Lake Chelan Health, Director of EMS and Paratransit

Ray Eickmeyer worked closely with Chelan County Fire District 5 throughout the pandemic. Rick educated himself on COVID-19 and became a valued community resource. He supported Chelan-Douglas Health Department to manage community-wide vaccinations and COVID-19 testing, while still managing his other responsibilities.


About Manson

Manson is an unincorporated rural community. While Manson still has its roots in farming, the community has grown to become a rural destination and retirement community. Some estimate that the community of 4,400 grew by up to 3,000 during the pandemic, due to many people selling homes in the cities to move full-time to their second homes located in Manson.

About Chelan County Fire District 5

Manson Fire Department

Manson FD is a volunteer fire department with two full time staff, Chief Arnold Baker and Reggie Trusel, Administrative Assistant, and one part-time staff, Raynor Baker.  The fire department benefits from having hospital EMS crew in the station. It’s rare that a small rural community has staffed advanced life support, but Manson FD provides that along with other outstanding services to the community. “It’s unique and it’s working and we want to keep it that way,” says Chief Baker.

Manson FD EMS teams are equipped to conduct site visits and evaluations to try to avoid unneeded ambulance calls. “This has worked fantastic in our community. Does someone need more care? Or can they ride it out at home? We try to make sure we find the high-risk people so they can get on the other side of COVID and return to their lives,” says Chief Baker.

Manson FD plans to continue with the volunteer model for years to come. And is looking to expand its volunteer base so that the fire department mirrors the community, which is about 30% Hispanic. Chief Baker notes, “We’re trying to appeal to the Hispanic community to come in and be volunteers so that we as the fire dept represent the population. We want to be the mix of the community.”

Note: The end of the Federal Health Emergency does not mean the end for WA COVID-19!

The Federal Public Health Emergency is ending on May 11, but Manson and other fire departments enrolled in WA COVID-19 will still be able to access free tests for the community! 

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We provide resources and one-to-one technical assistance to help you educate community members on why testing matters and how they can test themselves for COVID-19. Knowing when to isolate, especially when other vulnerable individuals may be involved, is critical to protecting community health.

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The Washington State Department of Health and Heath Commons periodically reviews the contents of to keep information content of as up to date as possible during guidance changes and program expansion. The content of does not necessarily represent the official views of WA State Department of Health.

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