Dear Editor:

I was just curious why the City of Orofino did not offer the full time Fire Chief job to Mike Lee who had been the Fire Chief for the last 20 years of his 28 years with the Orofino/Rural Fire Department.

Mike started with the Orofino Fire Department in January of 1990 and resigned his position July 1, 2018 when the City of Orofino announced the position of a full time Fire Chief and did not offer it to him. Mike was making $500 per month = $6,000 per year with no benefits.

The new Fire Chief job was listed at between $40,000 and $60,000 per year with benefits.

I have been Mike’s neighbor for about 18 years and know how dedicated to the Fire Chief’s job he was. Many weekends he was doing paperwork for the fire department and of course was on call. Mike’s main job was driving fuel truck for Atkinsons and when he got home in the afternoon, he was on call until leaving for work the next morning. Sometimes Mike would miss a day of work after being out on a fire all night and finishing up with paperwork and talking to insurance companies and sometimes the Fire Marshall.

When I was a Rural Fire District Commissioner, I used to attend the Firemen’s meetings above City Hall. I was always impressed how detailed the meetings were and how Mike strived to improve the Fire Department with the latest fire equipment and clothing that they could afford. The crew would go over every fire or incident they attended and was up front on the good things they did and some things they might want to change on the next one. Mike had a great crew with many firefighters that could mechanic and weld to save the city money in repairs.

He was instrumental in outfitting the first extraction truck and with money from the Bi-Centennial the fire department added an older truck and the money went into making two well equipped extraction trucks. The average response time for the fire department on Mike’s watch was six minutes. Not to City Hall, but to the scene of the fire or accident.

Mike helped in getting the Fire Station at Konkolville. He had a great working relationship with the other Fire Districts and Police Departments in our area. Mike and John Willard were instrumental in starting the Fire Academy in 2004. The academy helped train firefighters from around the area and created a good relationship among the firefighters and also helped bring revenue into Orofino.

He was not given a plaque for his service, but many of us that know Mike will always be indebted to him for his years of service and his desire for safety for his fellow firefighters. Thank you Mike Lee.

Ken Harvey


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