Spokane County fire commissioners vote to allow accommodation for firefighter

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane County Fire District 8 commissioners have voted to accommodate a firefighter choosing to not get vaccinated. Back in September, the district originally said it could not accommodate the firefighter.

Under Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate, firefighters are included in the requirement. The firefighter, Cory Miles, has an approved religious exemption, meaning he does not have to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Because the district said it could not give an accommodation, Miles got a letter of intent to separate. This sparked backlash from other firefighters and community members during a fire commissioners meeting on Sept. 28.

Fire commissioners did not make a decision then, stating they needed to consult with their lawyers.

During an Oct. 12 meeting, Chief Lonnie Rash said that based on facts, public testimony and impact to responses, they determined there would be no separation of employment and that accommodations would be available.

However, the specifics of the accommodations are not known yet. Rash said the accommodation would “ensure public safety, member safety and preservation of automatic aid.”

The district will have to figure out the accommodations in collaboration with the union and if they are any negotiable impacts. Rash said some accommodations could include wearing an N-95 mask while working and routine testing.

The fire district has 42 full-time firefighters. All have provided proof of vaccination, besides Miles.

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READ: Exemptions, but no accommodations: Unvaccinated firefighters call mandate a ‘personal attack’ 

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