Mike Kirk honored by fire department
By Halle Wyatt, Co-Content Editor
The island is well-known for its tight-knit community filled with familiar faces at every corner. Although many say that they know everyone on the island, this seems actually true for the island resident of over 50 years, Mike Kirk.
Kirk has served as a teacher, principal, local historian, and volunteer firefighter throughout his tenure. For his service to the fire department, fire chief Charles H. Krimmert has chosen to honor Kirk by using his picture on the annual fire report’s stamp.
Assistant fire chief Robert Larsen, Kirk’s former student, finds that he is long deserving of this achievement.
“This honor is truly fitting for Mr. Kirk as he still [is] the consummate teacher, leader, advisor, and steadfast supporter,” Larsen said.
Kirk has been volunteering at the fire department nearly as long as he has been teaching on the island. Kirk was inspired to engage in community service by his father-in-law — who was as a firefighter — his large quantity of free time during the summer, and most importantly, influential figures he learned from at college.
“I went to Seattle University and the Jesuit priests’ … philosophy always was [that] to the degree that you are educated should be the degree to which you should serve in various capacities,” Kirk said. “I always thought that volunteering… would be a good application [of that philosophy].”
Currently, Kirk primarily responds to calls while at home. Due to his close proximity to the Burton Fire Station, he has easy access to resources available to him. However, the department is often lacking in manpower, which can make difficult situations harder to control.
“We have so few volunteers anymore,” Kirk said. “Sometimes I’m the only one down there. We, like many parts of the country, cannot get enough volunteers because … people just don’t have the time [to train] like they used to.”
Throughout his career at the fire department, Kirk has worked as training officer, safety officer, volunteer assistant fire chief, paid assistant fire chief, interim fire chief, and a volunteer firefighter and EMT. When there is a lack of staff in the island’s fire department or its schools, Kirk has remained committed to providing assistance.
“A lot of teachers would be here for two years … So I figured, ‘an island; I’ll be here a couple of years,’” he said. “I told Mrs. Kirk, ‘you’re only gonna have to commute for a short while… Well, it’s been fifty years.”
Though Kirk is primarily known for serving as the principal of McMurray, where he served from 1987 to 2004, he has worked all across the school district, including schools that are no longer functioning, such as Burton Elementary School and Vashon Elementary School. Previously, he also taught English and history at the middle school.
Teaching on the island has allowed him to influence the lives of multiple generations of families.
“As time went on, [students] would grow up, and pretty soon I’m seeing their kids goofing around,” Kirk said. “If I’m at Chautauqua, even grandkids are coming in. That’s the rewarding part of the journey [and] being involved in a community.”