First responders honored for work at Oso mudslide

OSO — It was a brief ceremony, just a few minutes in duration.

Snohomish County Executive John Lovick read a proclamation declaring Thursday a time to honor first responders “whose sacrifice can never be repaid.”

Inside the Oso Fire Hall were medics and firefighters from around the county. The gathering served as a reunion for many of those who worked together after the deadly March 22 mudslide.

Oso Fire Chief Willy Harper recalled that difficult Saturday and how thankful he was to see fire trucks roll in to help from what seemed like “each and every district.”

Travis Hots, the rural Arlington fire chief who served as operations commander in the early days after the slide, said help seemed to pour in “from Index to Darrington, and everywhere in between.”

Arlington Fire Chief Bruce Stedman worked for more than three decades in Los Angeles County, where he was called to a wide range of disasters, including earthquakes and wildfires. The Oso slide was by far the biggest catastrophe of his career.

“Coming from LA, I figured I’d seen it all,” he said.

Some good has come from the tragedy, he said. Fire districts have grown closer to one another, and closer to other agencies, including the Washington State Patrol, public works departments, and the state Department of Transportation.

“We just have to cherish these relationships, and to build upon them,” he said. “That is what is going to serve the community best.”

Stedman said the feeling of unity was particularly true among firefighters. In the past, when they trained with other departments, it was as though they were cousins, “but now they are our brothers.”

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