Eastside firefighters threaten vaccine mandate lawsuit

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Firefighters on the Eastside are standing their ground when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Several of those firefighters spoke at the Eastside Fire & Rescue board of directors meeting Thursday night in hopes of being reinstated with the department.

Six unvaccinated firefighters at Eastside Fire and Rescue were terminated last month for not complying with the state vaccine mandate.

In total, 11 firefighters were either terminated or left the department due to the vaccine mandate, according to a spokesperson with Eastside Fire and Rescue.

Now, some firefighters are threatening to file lawsuits for discrimination and wrongful termination.

“Is there a potential for litigation? Absolutely. Do we want to go down that path? No. We want to heal the community, we don’t want to create this liability for the board or the community members. We want to heal the community and continue working and get back to where we were before,” said former Eastside Fire and Rescue firefighter Ricardo “Rocky” Martinez.

Last month, Chief Jeff Clark of Eastside Fire & Rescue released the following statement regarding the terminations of unvaccinated firefighters that read, in part:

“The department and our board are saddened by the loss of some of our firefighters but also deeply respectful of their personal choices. As the pandemic continues, EF&R will continue to follow state and local mandates and guidelines.”