Message from Fire Chief Ralston regarding Burning the Rotunda

Let me start by saying that I spoke with General Manger, Mitch Waterman a couple months ago about using the rotunda and Barns as a training site as an option for us to use prior to them being taken down. I’ve had several inquiries over the last several weeks about the possibility and interest of the fire department to burn the rotunda. I’ve had phone calls from Mike Ashby, Carol Houlton, Mitch Waterman and one other citizen that I don’t recall their name.  These have been inquires over the phone without a formal request from the Sudden Valley Community Association to perform an onsite visit for feasibility.  The initial message given without performing an onsite visit was the fire department can conduct training burns but in order to do so many conditions have to be met. There are permits that have to be obtained by Northwest Clean Air that would ensure that all hazardous materials have been mitigated. This would include all asbestos material being removal, floor coverings to include rugs or vinyl, asphalt roofing and if there were mold in the building this would also have to be removed. These are most of the conditions that Northwest Clean Air has in order to just get the permit. We also have weather conditions that have to be met that include no excessive winds and we cannot burn if there’s a county wide burn ban in place. We would also have to mitigate any water runoff from the site to ensure that during the training burn nothing would enter the storm water system that would go into the lake. I also expressed concerns about how the traffic would get in and out of the area. Most likely we would have to close the road (Windward Drive) below the rotunda and this is the main ingress and egress for residents in Gate 1. I’ve mentioned these when speaking about the possibility of burning the rotunda.

In addition to those issues being met the fire department would also have conditions to make the training burn work. We would have to have sufficient personnel to conduct the training burn and to also have personnel able to respond to other emergencies in all of our service area. This requires approximately 20-25 people that would have to agree to participate in the full day of activities.  Currently I don’t believe that we could get this commitment from our volunteers.

I understand that this has now been brought up in community meetings and I spoke with Mitch Waterman earlier this week to let him know that after several weeks of inquiries and further discussion with our staff, even with an onsite inspection and feasibility of the building, the fire department currently would not be able to burn the Rotunda. They are just to many variables and conditions that would have to be met for the rotunda to be used as a training burn.

I apologize if there’s been an interpretation from the inquires that this was a definite possibility that it could be used as a training burn. We have done training burns before and all of the conditions I mentioned above were met to have a safe training exercise. Please let me know if you need any additional information.


Thank you,


David M. Ralston

Fire Chief

South Whatcom Fire Authority

2050 Lake Whatcom Blvd

Bellingham WA. 98229

Office – 360-676-8080

Fax – 360-734-0437

Cell – 360-815-5254