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Naughty or nice, fireman Chris Blasko is there for you
Don’t tell the kids, but when Santa rides through the neighborhoods atop the red South Whidbey Fire/EMS fire engine, he gets a little help from Chris Blasko.
Four years ago, this fourth-generation Whidbey Islander climbed atop the big sleigh, turned on the flashing red lights and called out to children by name. He hasn’t climbed down since, because this Christmas celebration is as much fun for him as it is for all the little ones who hope he’ll grant their holiday wishes.
Of course, Blasko is used to Whidbey Island traditions. His family, now in its sixth generation — thanks to two grandkids, and one on the way — have been here long enough to have started some of them. His great-grandfather, Leon Burley, was Whidbey’s first school bus driver, and his grandfather, Robert Burley, and great-uncle, Lincoln Wildes, were among the first official firefighters at the Maxwelton Fire Station. Serving the community is in Blasko’s blood and he’s wanted to be a firefighter since he was in grade school.
A marine engineer with Washington State Ferries for 23 years, he went to work for Hatton Marine earlier this year and is the general manager of the GE marine engines division. He never gave up on his dream of fighting fires, and in 1998 began training with South Whidbey Fire/EMS to become a volunteer firefighter.
“The feeling you get from helping someone out during one of the worst moments of their life is hard to describe,” Blasko said. “Being a volunteer pays back in spades. There’s nothing like it, and I strongly encourage others to take part.”
Blasko is trained in marine rescue, search and rescue, recovery, beach fires and responding in areas that are hazardous to navigate. He also works with the high angle rescue team, a specialized rope crew that rescues people from Whidbey cliff sides. Once victims are lowered to the beach, Blasko and his team transport the person by boat to a medical facility.
He’s at Fire Station 36, which houses a fire engine and heavy rescue rig, and manages inspection, maintenance and station proficiency.
“It’s like a second full-time job,” Blasko said. “But I love it.”