Firefighters filing vaccine exemptions wonder if they’ll be pulled from the frontlines

SPOKANE, Wash — Firefighters statewide have threatened to quit instead of being vaccinated, but, for some local firefighters – it’s more complicated than that.

They want to know if their job will change if they ask for an exemption.

For the past 20 years, Tim Archer has been on the frontlines. He’s also the president of the Spokane Firefighter’s Union and says he hasn’t gotten the vaccine for religious reasons. He will be filing a religious exemption, but wouldn’t explain further what belief would make him exempt.

“Those that have a religious exemption, or a medical exemption, to pursue those exemptions, which the city is helping us do,” Archer said. “But what we do not have is any assurance, is that with that approved exemption, we will be able to work October 19.”

He argues it’s not clear whether firefighters who are granted exemptions will be allowed to work in the field. He wants a guarantee from Spokane Fire Department and the city. The city says conversations surrounding protocols isn’t over.

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“That’s part of the discussion right now, with the reasonable discussions is that’s going on, is what does that look like, what types of duties and responsibilities will those employees be able to have if they are exempt from vaccination,” said Brian Coddington, spokesperson for the City of Spokane.

While the city is still deciding, Spokane Fire District 9 has already made the call saying for them, the mandate was pretty crystal clear – the only options are getting the vaccine or asking for an exemption.

“So if our employees file one of those three by October 18, we move ahead, as ops normal in our organization,” said Fire Chief Jack Cates. “It’s basically as simple as that. Of course, we’ll follow the other mandates that are in place.”

Spokane firefighters have until September 3 to turn in both the religious and the medical exemption forms. The city hasn’t said when those protocols would be laid out.

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