DARRINGTON — Better safe than sorry.
That’s why the Darrington Fire District decided not to transport patients on Highway 530 during a state Department of Transportation closure.
The closure was put in place Friday after geologists reported an unstable, slow-moving slide on the south side of the highway. Emergency crews have been allowed through, but motorists have been detoured onto Highway 20 through Skagit County. An update on the closure is expected Wednesday evening.
The fire district announced Tuesday that it will not transport patients on Highway 530 until it gets assurances from the state.
The highway has been shut down in both directions since Friday evening between Oso Loop Road and C-Post Road. The area lies about 1.5 miles west of the slide that killed 43 people in 2014.
The Darrington Town Council has moved its Wednesday meeting to the Community Center, 570 Sauk Ave., to accommodate more people when it’s scheduled to get an update on the slide conditions. Representatives from the Department of Transportation, state Department of Natural Resources, Snohomish County Executive’s Office and County Council, the county public works and emergency management departments and other agencies are scheduled to be there, according to the meeting agenda. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.
Darrington Fire Chief Dennis Fenstermaker said it is not worth the risk for firefighters or patients. He noted the state decided to extend the closure after getting a closer look at the conditions over the weekend.
“I don’t want to be the person to explain to the family of one of our firefighters or the family of someone being taken to the hospital” if they were caught in another slide, he said.
Each emergency agency must make its own decision.
“Safety is the top mission here,” Fenstermaker said. “We can’t speak for any other agency.”
Part of the hillside moved an estimated 4 feet since a geologist first recorded cracks along an unpaved road earlier this month. Transportation officials said a slide from the 24 acre area could cover Highway 530 if the hill gave way.
The fire district has been working with emergency management experts, local clinics, hospitals and neighboring fire districts.
The plan now is to use paramedics from Concrete in Skagit County for cases requiring advanced life support. They’re backed up by helicopters from Airlift Northwest.
Basic life support will be provided by Darrington fire units with ambulance services on Highway 20 going to the closest or most appropriate hospital.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.