Petition seeks return of fire department personnel who left jobs due to vaccine mandate

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More than 2,100 people have signed a petition asking Moses Lake to bring back firefighters who have left the department because of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The petition was posted Sunday on the website change.org by the Moses Lake Firefighters union.

The union says the department is losing more than 87 years of combined experience with the departures of firefighter/EMT Michael Evens; shift Lieutenant Jay Morris; and shift Captain Phil Walker.

The city issued a statement this week saying they originally had granted exemptions to the vaccine requirement to eight fire department employees but determined there were no accommodations that could be made for them to continue in their roles.

“Our leadership consulted with statewide legal resources and our insurer. Our insurer counseled the City that if we were to act against the mandates and put an unvaccinated employee in a situation where we received a claim, then there is no coverage,” the city said in the statement. “We are a city that needs every penny of our reserve funds to bolster up the infrastructure of our community, not in fighting lawsuits.”

The firefighters’ union, IAFF Local 1258, responded to the city’s comments in a social media post.

“Despite surrounding city fire departments, fire districts, hospitals, school districts, and other EMS agencies allowing accommodations, this is what our city is choosing for their tenured employees,” the firefighters said. “Those leaving were fine to work and risk everything up until today. What really changed?”