MOSES LAKE, Wash. — The Moses Lake city council agreed to allow accommodations for unvaccinated firefighters, something it previously could not do.
The fire department lost three firefighters after the Oct. 18 deadline. At the time, the city said it could not offer any accommodations. This put a strain on an already short-staffed fire department.
But now they can get their jobs back.
With a close vote of 4 to 3, the city agreed to allow accommodations.
According to a statement from the city, this vote came after reviewing accommodations granted by other jurisdictions.
The accommodations apply to Moses Lake fire personnel with approved medical or religious exemptions. The city said unvaccinated firefighters must wear an N95 mask while on duty and take a rapid covid-19 test before every shift. They will also be allowed to perform duties listed in their job description, except for providing emergency medical aid--such as first aid.
Moses Lake Firefighters Union created an online petition to bring these three firefighters back. Their efforts paid off.
Union President Brandon Burns said they are grateful for the community's support in this.
"It is a big win for us," Burns said. "We're getting our guys back. And now we just got to move on and make sure that we continue to get the accommodations for whatever changes come down the pike."
Moses Lake Mayor David Curnel voted in favor of the accommodations. He told KREM 2's Amanda Roley he chose to get vaccinated. But he does not support a mandate that takes that choice away.
"When your livelihood is on the line, it might change what you do and that's what makes the mandate wrong," Curnel said. "People had to choose between their livelihood and getting a vaccine."
Council Member Dean Hankins is one of the three members who voted against offering accommodations. He said his experience as a physician's assistant played a large factor in how he voted.
"Your patients are the number one priority," Hankins said. "For me as on the council, the citizens of the city are my number one priority. So you take the medical aspect and being a councilman. So I saw no other way to go than to vote against it."
All three firefighters who lost their jobs had religious exemptions approved. Under the new accommodations the city is offering, all three can come back to the department if they choose.