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Fire & Life Safety

Safety Tips

Water Safety

Warmer weather draws many to water across the greater Spokane Valley Fire Department service area. The Spokane River, Liberty Lake and swimming pools are a great way to beat the heat. Often, people don’t think much about water safety — but they should. Nationally, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for people between the ages of 5 and 24. Life jackets are essential, especially for children.

Enjoying the water doesn’t have to result in accidental death. Most water-related accidents can be avoided by knowing how to stay safe and following a few simple guidelines. Learning how to swim is essential if you plan on being on or near water. Many local organizations provide swim instruction to people of all ages.

Swimming in lakes and rivers differs from taking a dip in your local pool. The Spokane River runs very cold and fast, especially in the early summer. On area lakes you often have to share the water with boaters, water skiers and other recreational vehicles. Whether sandy or rocky, lake and river bottoms are often uneven and produce startling, sudden drop-offs into deep water. You may have to contend with fish, seaweed and fishing residue such as fish hooks buried in the sand. Water conditions in lakes can be unpredictable, too.

Wear a Personal Flotation Device (Life Vest)
In Spokane County, “all persons, regardless of age, shall wear a personal flotation device while on moving water. This personal flotation device shall not derive its buoyancy from air or compressed gas (e.g.: inflatables).”  Spokane County Sheriff Deputies will assess a $76 fine for not wearing a personal flotation device on the Spokane River, per the Spokane County Code of Ordinances. Under the Washington State Supreme Court Monetary Penalty Schedule (IRLJ 6.2), the fine for not wearing a personal flotation device while boating on lakes is $99. Loaner life vests are often found at trailheads along the Centennial Trail near the Spokane River.

Get to Know Your Surroundings

River or lake swimming safety begins with a good understanding of what dangers are posed to swimmers. In some glacier-fed lakes or rivers, hypothermia is a real risk, even on warm summer days. Know what the water temperature is before you wade in. Find out what the lake or river depth is so you can dive safely.  Better yet, avoid diving into any unknown body of water. Test your cell phone on shore, as carrier signals vanish on many remote lakes and rivers. Know where the emergency call boxes and rescue equipment are located.

Never Swim Alone

Lakes are typically large, wide and deep. Even when the lake or river is crowded with swimmers and boaters, you should never venture out alone. Always swim with a buddy or in a group. Be aware of who is in your group and where they are at all times. Rivers flow fast and cold early in the summer. Lake rip tides can pull a swimmer under and away from shore very quickly. Learn to recognize lake or river conditions so you can avoid potentially dangerous situations.

Watch For Weather Hazards

Lake and river hazards can come from the sky above. Read or listen to a weather report for the lake area or river before you set out for the day. If the weather threatens to turn unpleasant, take a portable battery-operated radio to listen for weather alerts. Leave the water at the first sound of thunder and don’t re-enter the water until at least 20 minutes after the last clap of thunder has passed.

Keep Children Safe

If you take children to swim in the river or lake, keep them in your sight all times. Strong underwater currents can catch youngsters by surprise and pull them under in seconds. Children should always wear life vests in the water. Be prudent about allowing them into the water after a meal, or if they are over-heated. Take along a beach umbrella to provide shade and a cool place for children to rest between swims.

Did you Know?


  • You can sign up for a station tour. Great for small groups.
  • You should replace the batteries in your smoke alarms twice a year.
  • Creating a defensible space with regards to wildfires could just save your home or property.

Commissioner Patrick Burch

Board Member Since: July 18, 2016
Current term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Burch was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in July 2016 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. He became a volunteer member of the Department’s CERT Team in 2008 and later served as a team leader/member of Fire Corps.

“I admire the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s focus on continuous improvement. Our dedication to the community, fiscal responsibility and the fact that we are one of the few accredited fire departments in the State of Washington all make SVFD great!”

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Burch was elected by voters in November 2017.

Commissioner Mike Kester

Board Member Since: January 1, 2020
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Mike Kester was elected to the Board of Fire Commissioners in November, 2019.

Commissioner Kester grew up in the Spokane area and has a deep appreciation for just how fortunate we all are to live in this beautiful area. He believes that being involved in this community is not something to take lightly.

His background includes joining the United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G) after high school and serving on a port firefighting boat doing search and rescue in Portland, Oregon.  After the Coast Guard, he attended the University of Montana earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Resource Management.  He then went on to work for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, serving in their Parks Department.

Spokane was the next step in his career. He  went to work for the Burlington Santa Fe Railroad and the next 22 years was spent as a conductor moving freight. Commissioner Kester  retired in 2010 after a workplace injury and now,  he and his wife enjoy making meals for World War II Veterans, helping out at the YMCA ,and providing meals for those in need.

“In the 25 years of being a resident of the Spokane Valley the professionalism of the SVFD has inspired me to take an active part in bettering our community. We have one of the best fire departments in the whole Pacific Northwest. My wife and I have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. I have dedicated my life to keeping them safe.  I want to apply that dedication to our community.  Keeping us all safe is a goal we should all aspire to in one way or another. Communication within the department and with the public is, and always will be one of my primary goals.”

Commissioner John Guarisco

Board Member since: August 27, 2018
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2027

Commissioner Guarisco was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in August 2018 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. Commissioner Guarisco founded Marjoni Marketing in 2004 and in 2010 merged with MDI marketing. He then pursued Real Estate, earning his license and now, currently serves the greater Spokane area as a licensed Realtor. He has long been active in the community and has won numerous awards during his career including the Volunteer of the Year (2014) and the Community Caring Award (2010) from the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.  He is a member of the Greater Spokane Valley Rotary Club and holds an AA degree from Spokane Falls Community College.

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Guarisco was elected by voters in November 2019.

Commissioner Bill Anderson

Board Member since: January 1, 2000
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2023

Commissioner Anderson served our community as a Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighter for 29 years. Throughout his career, he worked as a firefighter, dispatcher and engineer before he was promoted and became an officer. He was Station Captain of Millwood Station 2 when he retired in 1999. During his years as firefighter, he was an active leader of Spokane Valley Firefighters Local 876 and served as a trustee on the Washington State Council of Firefighters for 25 years.

“It’s important to me that we continue the good service we’ve always given the people. We’ve accomplished a lot and are pulling in the same direction to get better. I’m very proud of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.”

Commissioner Brian Asmus

Board Member Since: June 14, 2021
Current term expires: 

Commissioner Brian Asmus was appointed to the Spokane Valley Fire Department Board of Fire Commissioners in 2021.

Commissioner Asmus is the former Liberty Lake Police Chief and current Director of Safety and Security at Central Valley School District (CVSD).

“Brian Asmus brings extensive Public Safety leadership experience, and a long history of being actively engaged in his community to his new role as a SVFD Commissioner,” said SVFD Fire Chief, Bryan Collins. “During his time as a Police Chief, Brian interacted with SVFD firefighters and administrators on a regular basis, making him very familiar with our structure, standing within our communities, as well as with many of our current SVFD board members and personnel. Brian’s experience working and collaborating on regional issues aligns nicely with SVFD’s philosophy and will help us continue to be a catalyst for local and regional excellence and innovation.”