Two longtime fire commissioners retire

Two longtime Federal Way Fire Department Commissioners, with 50 years of service between them, have watched the demand for service grow dramatically.

Jim Osborne, 68, and Dean Gullikson, 67, have guided the department in its growth from an all-volunteer department to one with 126 employees. Last year, the department responded to 9,500 fire and emergency medical calls from residents in its district.

That’s about 170 calls each week, compared to 1970, when the record was 32 calls in one week.

Osborne and Gullikson, who retired from the board Jan. 1, kept pace with the changes, said Fire Chief Al Church.

“These men have given a lot of support to the department over the years, both to the administration and the rank and file, and have been looked upon as mentors by many of us,” Church said. “They’ve both brought a financial background from their professional lives, and have taught those of us with a fire service background how to operate from a business point of view.”

Osborne was elected as a fire commissioner in 1967 for the Star Lake Fire District, one of four districts that eventually became the Federal Way Fire Department. He resigned that position in 1973 to accept an overseas job, rejoined the district in 1978, and has served continuously since.

“When we moved to Federal Way in 1963, there were two choices for community service; the community club and the volunteer fire department,” Osborne said. “I had a bad back and couldn’t respond to calls, but they suggested I become a commissioner and look out for the finances. In those early days there were times, especially during week days, when you’d see an engine go by with just the driver to respond to a call.”

In addition to his work with the fire department, Osborne has been active for 24 years with the King County Fire Commissioners Association and the Washington State Fire Commissioners Association.

He served on various committees, and even helped to draft legislation.

“What I’m most pleased with is my involvement in putting together the basic structure which trained the first 1,500 EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) in King County, back in the early 1970s,” Osborne said. “Out of that came the development of paramedic services. It’s a heady thing to be part of that at the beginning.”

Gullikson was first appointed to the board in 1976, and was re-appointed in 1988 when the board expanded from three to five members. In 1992, Gullikson served as chairman of the committee seeking input on what the community wanted from their local fire department.

“Dean has always been calm and supportive; he throws out a lot of challenges to us to think through an issue,” Church said. “He makes us look at things from all different points of view in order to make the best decisions.”

Gullikson said he’s most proud of the board’s decision to establish a reserve fund that’s used for major equipment purchases.

“It was costly to go to the ballot to ask the voters to buy new engines, and for the past 10 years or so, we haven’t had to. Three new engines are being delivered later this month. We’ve managed the money well.”

Though they enjoyed their years of service, Gullikson and Osborne are looking ahead.

Osborne said he and his wife Colene plan to travel.

“We can get away for a month or more at a time now,” he said.

Gullikson said his plans are closer to home.

“I’ve got seven lovely grandchildren,” he said, “who I expect to spend more time with.”

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