Puyallup: News

New East Pierce Fire chief feels at home in role

East Pierce Fire and Rescue has a new fire chief. Bud Backer recently joined the department's top spot after previously serving with communities in King County.
East Pierce Fire and Rescue has a new fire chief. Bud Backer recently joined the department's top spot after previously serving with communities in King County. Staff photographer

No one can question Bud Backer’s dedication to his new position as chief of East Pierce Fire and Rescue.

Backer is so dedicated, the new chief spent his first six weeks on the job living in his RV in a local RV park until he and his wife bought a home outside of Bonney Lake.

Prior to taking his job with East Pierce, Backer worked for fire departments in King County with roles varying from firefighter to deputy fire chief to fire chief — even fire marshal.

Backer has known about East Pierce Fire since the department began to merge in 2000 into what it is today.

“We knew we could never pull (a merge) off in King County,” he said. “They put it together, and they did it right. I had always been envious of how they pulled it off.”

When he saw the fire chief position vacancy, he decided to apply.

“Then it ended up working for my wife and I,” the 54-year-old Backer said. “When we drove down here to look around, it already felt like home.”

Backer has spent the last 30 years in the fire service, and 27 with the fire service as his career. He ultimately credits a longtime family friend, a battalion chief in Richland, with encouraging him to become a firefighter.

“Looking back, I see the subtle signs that he was encouraging me to join the fire service,” Backer said.

While the new chief already feels at home in his new community, he still has his work cut out for him. His first goal is to get the department back on its feet after its last few levy attempts failed.

“We need to develop a long-term plan for funding,” he said. “Our apparatus are very old, and have high mileage. We are in a position with no way around it, and we are reaching the end of the vehicle’s life expectancy.”

Between the department’s aging apparatuses, stations that were not meant to be staffed around the clock and increased fire staffing, Backer says the proposition will be expensive, but hopes to spread out the financial burden to taxpayers.

“I want to do it the right way,” he said. “It will be a laid out plan for voters, and well explained so the firefighters know (it) as well.”

The current plan is to stick to the fire and EMS levies, and see how much the department can get from those. The levy won’t appear on this year’s ballot, as Backer says he hasn’t had enough time to do his research to come up with the best possible plan for the department and citizens.

“I want to show that I’ve tried other options,” he added.

Backer’s first six weeks on the job have been busy, meeting with other local officials and overseeing a high volume of calls.

“It’s been busy; we’ve had a high volume of calls,” he said. “There was the large brush fire in Panorama Heights. For the middle of July, the fire activity was really fierce.”

Most of the fires East Pierce has responded to have been fairly small, and started by people who didn’t intend to. Backer reminds folks that it isn’t safe to burn right now, and to find ways to protect homes and possessions.

Tips to preventing fires

▪ Protect yourself if there is a green belt behind your home. Ensure that there are 30 feet between houses and the brush.

▪ If the green belt is on a slope, keep 100 feet between the house and brush. If you own the property, clean out the underneath of it.

▪ Don’t put yard clippings into the green belt.

▪ Don’t throw cigarette butts out the window of cars.

Source: East Pierce Fire