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Cliff Rescue Training
The Spokane Valley Fire Dept’s Special Operations Team practices high-angle rescues on the cliffs below Riblett’s Mansion.

Within the Spokane Valley Fire Department service area, there are occasional emergencies that exceed the skills and tools that are normally reserved for firefighting, medical emergencies and rescues. When this occurs, the Special Operations Team is deployed. The team consists of 27 personnel (nine per shift) with advanced, technician-level training to quickly respond to save lives.


The Special Operations team performs technical rescues including confined space rescue, high/low angle rescue and trench rescue. This team can deploy an engine, a 105’ ladder, a medium rescue unit, and/or a technical rescue response unit that contains specialized shoring and rescue materials.

Some examples where the team would be deployed include:

  • Climber stuck on a cliff or rock out-cropping
  • Injured worker at the top of a water tower
  • Sewer installer entrapped in a collapsed dirt trench
  • Child stuck in a pit
  • Injured teenager on an icy sledding hill

While these types of emergencies occur infrequently, it is important that our firefighters can complete these complex rescues in a safe, efficient manner.


Stranded Climber Rescue

SVFD’s Special Operations Team rescues a stranded climber on the rocks at Mirabeau Point Park.

Three SVFD engines are equipped to respond to an “extrication” scene when one or more people are trapped. Most often this occurs when drivers and passengers become trapped inside vehicles at the scene of a motor vehicle collision. Occasionally, workers become trapped by industrial equipment.

Extrication equipment – often called “the jaws of life” – is actually a set of tools including spreaders, cutters, rams and other specialized equipment. The tools are extremely powerful. Every firefighter receives training in the use of this equipment and crew members who work on the engines carrying the extrication equipment receive advanced training. Advances in vehicle design including new steel alloys, pressurized gas airbag systems and others, cause the Department to regularly update training and equipment.


The Spokane River winds through the heart of our service area, starting at the Washington/Idaho state line and continuing to the City of Spokane border. To some the river serves as a peaceful backdrop while on the Centennial Trail, to others it is a recreational retreat to enjoy fishing, swimming and rafting.

Raft Rescue
A recreational rafter being rescued from the
Spokane River at Barker Bridge

Unfortunately, many fail to respect the power and hidden dangers of the Spokane River. They use rafts designed for swimming pools, don’t wear personal flotation devices (PFD’s) or consume too much alcohol. Some get in trouble and need to be rescued. In one incident, a recreational rafter became entangled in the supports of the Barker Bridge and had to be hoisted up through the decking by our technical rescue team. The rafter was not wearing a PFD.

Spokane Valley Fire Department’s Special Operations team is trained and equipped to respond to Swift Water Rescues on the Spokane River and on Liberty Lake, the two main bodies of water in our service area. The team is equipped with four kayaks, a cataraft and additional safety equipment to handle the sometimes frigid water temperatures. The special operations team members are trained to conduct a search with kayaks, swim out to a victim and make a contact rescue, as well as building rope systems to free water craft from rocks or other debris in the river. They have the ability to accomplish these rescues anytime of the year, regardless of the weather.

Through the process of developing the SWR program, we have taken a regional approach to deliver the service. Responding to water rescues with other first responding agencies allows us to put more responders on scene, increasing the safety level for rescuers as well as the chances of a successful rescue. Nationwide, statistics show that 30% of the deaths in swift water incidents are rescuers, and working with other experienced agencies will help keep us from becoming part of these statistics. The Spokane City Fire Department has had a SWR team for over 12 years; they provided us with training support and advice when we launched our SWR Team in 2010. Assisting other agencies also gives us more exposure to actual incidents which will increase our effectiveness.

While the Spokane Valley Fire Department has a trained team to rescue you on the water, we would prefer not to! The single biggest thing you can do to be safe on the water is to wear a PFD that is the correct size and insist all of those in your group are doing the same. Please be safe on the water by always wearing a PFD!


While there are numerous bodies of water within the SVFD boundaries that freeze in the winter, our primary risk for ice rescue incidents is Liberty Lake. Because of the potential for individuals to fall through weak ice, we conduct annual ice rescue training with our firefighters on Liberty Lake — often in January.

Crews stationed in our Liberty Lake, Greenacres, Sullivan and Otis Orchards stations along with our Special Operations team typically respond to ice rescue incidents. Each crew carries ice rescue gear on their fire apparatus from November through March. Firefighters performing an ice rescue wear dry suits for their protection and are typically tethered to rescuers on the shore by a rope. SVFD has a rescue sled and kayaks that can be deployed to assist with the rescue when the ice is broken.

Although our primary focus for ice rescue is people, crews may attempt an animal rescue if the operation can be done safely.

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.”