Smells of black coffee and bacon filled the West Thurston Fire Station in Rochester on Tuesday morning. The lights were off and the blinds were drawn low in an effort to keep the station cool before the sweltering heat would become inescapable later in the day.
Though it was breakfast time for his coworkers, firefighter Chris White was just getting off shift. But his work was not done. As far as he’s concerned, it never is.
White is currently working to refurbish a ballfield in the Scott Lake community, in the Tumwater area of Thurston County. He loves baseball and fastpitch and used to coach kids with his dad. Just one story about a girl going on to play in college has been enough to prove to him the value of the sports for children in his community.
While hosting one of his children’s birthday parties, he noticed the overgrown baseball field beside the Scott Lake Community Center. He said someone at the center told him it likely hasn’t been used for competitive baseball since before the 1980s.
But it has the bones of a good field: good drainage, lots of open room and even the chain fences around the infield are sturdy. With layers of black paint, it’s well on its way to looking like brand new fencing.
With the help of other West Thurston firefighters, community volunteers and donations, White said he’s about 50% of the way through the project.
“I think the biggest rewarding moment will be when we drive by there one day and there's kids out there playing on the field. That'll be good,” White said. “We're also planning possibly a community day where we're going to get the community up for some involvement with a softball tournament there.”
He first brought the projects to his teammates about six months ago. Now, White thinks it will be done within the next month.
West Thurston firefighters are encouraged to get involved with community projects, said West Thurston Fire Authority Chief Robert Scott.
“With firefighters, you turn them loose on a project and it doesn't take long. I mean, the formulation part is something we do every day on the job,” Scott said.
White said they also have an operations group that they use as a “think tank” for projects they can participate in. The fire department also gets involved with events such as Rochester’s Swede Day, the Scott Lake fishing derby and events at the Capitol Forest.
“We specifically empower folks to do the right thing at the right time for the right people. And this is just an illustration of that. We empower them to find things in the community that need attention,” Scott said, adding later, “Any time that we can communicate with our neighbors and our friends outside the scope of an emergency, all the better for us to do that.”
To follow along with the project and/or get involved with work parties, follow @ScottLakeMaintenance on Facebook.