Celebrating the work of Washington’s first responders to bring COVID-19 testing to their communities and highlighting best practices based on their experiences.

Douglas County Fire District 4

Douglas County Fire District 4’s COVID-19 test distribution program, led by Chief Jim Oatey and Tara Cunningham, DCFD4 Administrator, is a proactive, relentless, community-centric operation. Located just outside of Orondo, DCFD4 is bringing at-home COVID-19 testing to the community through events, partnerships with local businesses and fruit stands, collaborations with local apple packaging plants, and just sheer perseverance. 

We caught up with Chief Oatey and Tara to learn how they’ve used their networks and reputation to promote COVID-19 testing in their community. 

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Douglas County Fire District 5

Chief Tyler Caille of Douglas County Fire District 5 wants to get the word out: We have COVID-19 tests!

In Douglas County Fire District 5 (DCFD5), located in Mansfield, a rural farming community about 3 hours away from Seattle, Chief Caille and his volunteers provide critical Fire and EMS support to the sprawling farming community. Since they began implementing the WA COVID-19 testing program in May 2023, the community support they provide expanded to included COVID-19 test kits.

As the public’s focus on the pandemic changes – despite COVID-19 continuing to spread – Chief Caille wants people to know that those COVID-19 tests are still available and still needed. Right now, his biggest challenge is getting the word out: 

“As far as challenges go at this point, it’s really just getting the word out. We’re still working on creative ways to get that message delivered more efficiently, but that’s our main focus right now.”

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Douglas Okanogan County Fire District 15

“Helping the community was second nature. We felt like we needed to still be doing something. Then the WA COVID-19 program came up, and we already know how to do it. It was nothing for us to step into this role, because we’ve been in this role for so many years. But the funding [provided by the program] was definitely a huge component. Getting the supplies without a cost – that was huge.”

Tonya Vallance

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Chelan County Fire District 5

“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

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Sunnyside Fire Department

“For other fire departments considering this program, it’s a great opportunity to open up your communication with your community. Someone who might not usually come up might do so to get a test. And then they can talk to the fire prevention captain and build a relationship. If you’re out there trying to build a relationship with your community, this is a great avenue to do that.”

Chief Haubrich

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Does your Fire Department have a COVID-19 test distribution program that you’d like to highlight? 

WA COVID-19 First Responders Testing Program 

This program is funded by the CDC Health Disparities Grant, and Health Commons Project (HCP) is an implementing partner. We also work with the Washington State Fire Chief’s Association (WSFCA) to connect with the various first responder agencies across the state. Through this program, we provide testing supplies and technical assistance to first responder/EMS agencies to support capacity building and involvement in community paramedicine programming.

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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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