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Jul 22, 2020

These safety precautions will help you and your loved ones play safe and have more fun in the water! Many accidents on the water are preventable, so let’s cover the basics for how to avoid emergencies as you splash, swim, float, paddle, boat, or ride a personal watercraft (e.g., Jet Ski).

Let’s talk swimming! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Spokane County swimming pools will remain closed this 2020 season. Community pool closures make it challenging for many to enjoy the water and participate in swimming lessons, and it will mean more people may flock to backyard pools or to beaches where no lifeguards are present. Always supervise children in the water. Young children should be barricaded from the water, placed in lifejackets, or watched closely to prevent drowning. For your safety, never swim alone. Can you swim well enough to save your life? Check your swimming competency.

Rivers and lakes. When swimming, wading, or playing in a lake or river, watch out for currents, waves, drop-offs, and underwater obstructions. There are hidden dangers in open water areas not designated for swimming. Lifejackets are recommended. Watch out for watercraft entering your swimming area.

Lifejackets save lives. It is the law in Spokane County that “all persons regardless of age shall wear a personal flotation device while on moving water.” Failure to comply results in a $76 fine. Be aware that tubes, rafts, or other inflatables do not count as personal flotation devices on moving water, so you will need to also wear a lifejacket. In addition, Washington state law requires all vessels, including canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards (SUPs), to have at least one properly fitted Coast Guard-approved lifejacket for each person on board. All children, 12 years of age or younger, are always required to wear lifejackets when on a vessel. Find a coupon for 25% off a lifejacket, fitting tips and more resources.

Paddle safe. Paddlecraft include kayaks, canoes, SUPs, rowboats, and inflatable fishing rafts are all subject to boating laws and regulations. Before setting out on a paddling adventure, preparation is essential. Review these important guidelines for safe paddling. Learn to select the proper leash and lifejacket for SUPs as some types may actually be dangerous. And, check out a free online paddlesport class.

Safety will float your boat! Boating can be a real treat, but now for some serious statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard. In 2019, 79% of all fatalities from boating accidents were deaths by drowning. Of those drowning victims, 86% were not wearing a lifejacket. Make sure you have properly fitted lifejackets for everyone aboard. Wearing a lifejacket can drastically increase your chances of survival if you are thrown overboard.

Partiers beware. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Never get on a boat with an intoxicated operator. Operating any vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including marijuana, is not only unsafe—it’s illegal. Washington State’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law applies to all boats including kayaks, canoes, SUPs, rowboats, and inflatable fishing rafts.

Boater education. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that 70% of boating deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction. Learn to be a good operator and earn your Washington State Boater Education Card, which is mandatory for many boat and personal watercraft (e.g., jet ski) operators. Whether you cruise, sail, kayak, fish, or do yoga on an SUP, you are responsible to know the laws and basics of boating safety.

COVID-19 and water recreation. According to the CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 could spread through recreational water itself, but close contact between people is still not safe. In accordance with Governor Inslee’s current face covering order, people are to practice physical distancing when around people outside of their household, or they are to wear face coverings if distancing can’t be maintained. Do not wear a cloth face covering in the water. A mask won’t work when wet, and it could cause suffocation. Stay healthy and stay cool this summer!

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.

Media Contact

  • Julie Happy
  • 509-892-4155

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.”