By Pat Jenkins
Graham Fire and Rescue’s new chief is a local-boy-makes-good story..
Ryan Baskett, who took over as chief in June for the the retiring Reggie Romines, is heading the fire protection and emergency medical service for the area where he was born and raised. Once a young man filled with thoughts of seeing the world, Baskett now is 49 and thrilled to be where he is and doing what he’s doing.
“It’s exciting. I’m blessed to have had a 25-year career in the fire service, and to be able to serve the community I grew up in is a wonderful opportunity,” he said.
Baskettt has been with the Graham department since 1989. He worked his way up, eventually reaching assistant chief positions that gave him responsiblities such as overseeing operations and helping manage the construction of three fire stations.
The department serves a population of approximately 60,000 in a 90-square-mile unincorporated area of Pierce County. It has five fire stations, nine fire and ladder trucks and four medical aid units. Like many rural fire districts, it faces budget issues brought on by declining revenue from property taxes that fund its operations. Since 2008, six firefighter positions that have opened haven’t been filled in order to hold costs down.
Baskett promised the agency will work every day to overcome any fiscal shortcomings and meet the public’s needs. That’s a heavy responsibility he said keeps him awake some nights.
“I don’t take this mission lightly,” he said. “I feel the responsibility for protecting each and every one of our citizens. I will lose sleep many nights, but that’s okay. It’s truly rewarding to make a difference every day.”
Baskett, who with his wife Christine has two children and lives at Clear Lake, grew up in the Graham area and attended schools in the Bethel School District. After finishing high school, he worked in construction before deciding “I wanted to do something more service-oriented.”
His father, Lawrence Baskett, who pinned the chief badge on Baskett’s uniform during a formal change-of-command ceremony July 2 at the headquarters fire station, “taught me at an early age that work ethic will provide rewards beyond your expectations,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes, but you always give your best effort.”