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Hi Neighbor! Meet Captain Kyle White of Seattle Fire Department Fire Station 21

PhinneyWood is full of wonderful people and great places that we all wish we knew more about. Resident Kevin Kozel periodically digs deeper to let us know more in a column we like to call … Hi Neighbor!

With our busy schedules it can be easy to forget some of the resources that make living in PhinneyWood so great. Every so often we are reminded that accidents happen when we hear the sirens and see the flashing lights of the firetrucks coming from the fire station on Greenwood Ave. Let’s take some time to get to know Captain Kyle White and learn how he and the firefighters of Fire Station 21 are keeping us safe.

Kevin Kozel (KK): How long have you been a firefighter?

Captain White (CW): I’ve been with the department for 26 years, but at this station for about a year and a half. I’ve spent my whole career in the Southend prior to this. Thirteen years in Rainier Valley and 10 years on Beacon Hill. I was a training instructor for a couple of years in between.

KK: And how are you enjoying PhinneyWood?

CW: It’s nice! I didn’t know a lot about it. I think I needed to look at a map to find it when I got promoted and they sent me here! The neighborhood is very cool. I like the PNA and how involved they are in the community. They’ve got lots of activities planned throughout the year. It’s good to be working in a neighborhood where you feel like you’re in a neighborhood. We don’t have a lot of the issues up here that we have in other parts of the city, which is nice too.

KK: And who else is here with you?

CW: There are four of us here right now. There’s myself and I’ve got a (fire engine) driver and two firefighters. We have four different crews of four that work here. The personnel we have can change from day to day. For example, my regular driver is off today, so the department has sent another firefighter here from a different station to fill for the shift. The way each Fire Station is setup is pretty standard across the Seattle Fire Department, so you can go pretty much anywhere in the city and plug right in with a crew and know what you’re supposed to do. It makes it pretty nice.

KK: Teamwork is very important in doing what you do. I’d imagine being structured like that makes it easier.

CW: There’s a lot of training involved. From the day you start drill school all the way through the end of your career you’re training daily on various aspects of the job. We do a lot of training within the department so you’re often training with other stations within the city. That way everyone is on the same page.

KK: We have a lot of very nice and modern looking stations in Seattle, and this one is no exception.

CW: They built this new station in the past seven/eight years. The one here prior was built back in the 40s or 50s, and, typical of buildings at that time, it didn’t really serve the function of what we do today. A lot of them have been torn down and rebuilt, or significantly remodeled. The levee that was approved several years ago allowed for that. I don’t think there is a station in the city that wasn’t improved by that in some way. 

KK: What are some things people should do to reduce alarm calls to the station?

CW: We’re getting into the cold weather now, so make sure you have a technician look at your furnaces before you fire them up. For the baseboard heaters, check for toys and that they are clear of drapes. Make sure you keep the flue open in your fireplace if you are building a fire. And of course the most important thing is to make sure your smoke detectors work. It’s a $20 piece of equipment that will save your life. If you have limited income the fire department will give them to you. You can get that information on the website.

On the EMS side, better self-care helps. We don’t have a problem coming out, but our coverage is limited. If we have to come see you for something that is fairly minor, that means there is no fire protection in this area. Getting pulled away for non-emergencies can have a major impact on something else, so think about your neighbors.

KK: A lot of children want to be firefighters when they grow up. Have you always wanted to be a firefighter?

CW: No, not at all! I grew up in a rural community where all the firefighters were volunteers, so I never thought of it as a career. I was naive. I became a volunteer in high school. Years later my buddies told me they were going to take the Seattle test. That was when I found out I could get paid for this, so I signed up.

KK: What do you enjoy most about being a firefighter?

CW: The variety of things you can do in a day can really change. There’s a lot to learn and people expect a lot of you. You never know what might happen in five minutes, and that unknown keeps you on edge and keeps you interested. We all think we’ve got the best job in the world.

If you’d like to say “hello” to Captain White and the other fire fighters at Fire Station 21, feel free to stop by or give them a wave at 7304 Greenwood Avenue North. You can often see them in the Watch Office right up front next to the garages. To learn more about the SFD visit https://www.seattle.gov/fire.

Any person, place, or thing you want to know more about in our neighborhood? Feel free to drop us a line or leave a comment and we’ll look into making it a future feature on Hi Neighbor!