Fine won't help Kahlotus

By the Herald editorial staff

The volunteers of Franklin Fire District 2 in Kahlotus made some mistakes during an attempted rescue of two men last summer.

The deaths of Kurt and Eric Harder were not caused by the firefighters' errors.

But mistakes resulted in an emergency flight to Spokane and hospitalization of one of the firefighters.

But adding another mistake -- this time one by state officials -- seems like the wrong way to make needed improvements in the fire district's operations.

The state's Department of Labor and Industries fined the small rural district $16,500 for what it failed to do that day.

It's not a huge amount of money. Peanuts, really, in some budgets. But it's 22 percent of what the little district expects to collect this year in taxes and fees.

For Franklin Fire District 2, it's an enormous penalty and heaps insult on top of injury.

The state cited the district for eight violations -- all of which could be rectified with prevention, planning and training.

It's not clear how fining the district more than a fifth of its annual revenues will enhance the training budget.

Fines, penalties and other punitive actions have long been the muscle to force compliance. They are an effective, and sometimes brutal, motivator.

The threat of being grounded encourages kids clean up their rooms. The promise of some prison time discourages people from driving while intoxicated.

In this case, however, the punishment is too harsh.

The community has suffered too much already.

The loss of Kurt and Eric hit nearly everyone in the Basin, especially the volunteers who struggled to save the popular brothers.

Eric was a volunteer firefighter with the fire district and Kurt was a fire district commissioner. The would-be rescuers were their friends and neighbors.

The firefighters and EMTs made some mistakes, most of which the state classifies as "serious." This district needs more training and a better prevention plan. It needs to be better prepared for emergencies.

It needs encouragement, not retribution.