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Cowlitz 2 Fire and Rescue gets new wheels and a fresh look to recruit volunteers


Providing fire and emergency medical services to the residents of Kelso and Longview is hard work, but that doesn’t mean recruiting volunteers has to be.

Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue recently added a 2007 Ford Explorer from the Cowlitz County motor pool to its fleet, but the vehicle doesn’t look like any other Ford on the road. The fire department has added an eye-catching decorative wrap design to help with volunteer recruitment.

A “wrap” is a large vinyl graphic or decal, applied directly over the vehicle’s original paint. Wraps have become an increasingly popular way to turn a car, truck, or trailer into a rolling advertisement with increased visibility.

With the help of the vinyl wrap, Cowlitz 2’s plain silver Ford transformed into an eye-catching, fire-engine red recruitment vehicle, with black and white flames erupting from the wheel wells and snaking up the front hood and back hatch. Both sides of the car feature the words “Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue,” while the hood features the image of a firefighter from the back in full gear. Captain James Graham revealed that the model was actually an image taken of Cowlitz 2 firefighter Garrick Ashenfelter during his last training burn.

The natural choice for who got to drive the new wheels was the department’s fire inspector, who makes the most frequent trips around town.

The car also has one more special feature that makes it stand out from the others on the road. On the back is a new slogan, which reads: “The desire to serve, the courage to act, the ability to protect.” The phrase was chosen from community and firefighter submissions via a Facebook competition and was revealed during the Go Fourth festival.

The wrapping work was performed by Wicked Wraps, a company based out of Mukilteo and run by husband and wife team Katherine and Wade Becher. Since 2008, the company has been providing customized wrap work for personal vehicles, commercial trucks, and even other public service vehicles, including the Mukilteo Police Department.

“My original vision was to pay homage to the roots of this city that the fire department serves,” said Katherine Becher, who did the designing for the wrap. After learning about Kelso’s Scottish roots during meetings with the fire department, she became interested in Kelso’s Scottish ties, which date back to founder Peter Crawford. That heritage influenced her choice to include Celtic knot-work in the background of the design.

“This is definitely among the most unique service vehicles that we’ve done,” Becher said. “In terms of cool, custom, hip, edgy and fun, this is the first one we’ve done for any service company.”

The husband and wife team decided to sponsor a portion of the cost of the wrap themselves, which helped pay for part of the work. The rest of the funding came from a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant aimed at helping fire departments recruit volunteers.

“As far as I know, it’s the first of its kind in the country,” Becher said. “Cowlitz 2 had an idea and said ‘Let’s be different.’ ”

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