Fourth of July generated a record number of calls to Thurston 911 dispatchers

The 24 hours of July 4 turned out to be record-breaking for Thurston 911 Communications staff. They dispatched emergency services to 1,250 events, a 5 percent increase over last year’s holiday, according to data released Tuesday.

There were 234 fireworks-related calls Saturday. Of those calls, fire departments were dispatched 152 times, including to 71 grass or brush fires and four structure fires.

“That is huge,” said Jim Quackenbush, executive director of Thurston 911 Communications.

Thurston 911 expected the holiday to be busy, so they planned to have one extra dispatcher on hand, but they wound up needing to bring in two more people because of call volumes, said Quackenbush.

A total of 13 dispatchers fielded calls on Saturday, he said.

“The statistics kind of say it all,” Quackenbush said.

And here they are: Thurston 911 received 1,656 calls Saturday, but not all of them resulted in the dispatch of emergency services staff, and some were duplicate calls. For example, an accident on Interstate 5 might be witnessed by 25 people, all of whom dial 911, he said.

Of the 1,656 calls, 1,250 resulted in Thurston 911 dispatching police, fire or emergency medical personnel (paramedics, EMTs) to an emergency of some kind.

Among those incidents were two serious accidents on Interstate 5 — one of which backed up traffic for several hours — and an apparent suicide in Lacey in which a 30-year-old man was found hanging from a tree near a bus stop.

Quackenbush said Thurston 911 will field a Washington State Patrol-related call, but then transfer it to a state patrol dispatch center.

Here is how the fireworks calls break down by jurisdiction:


Thurston County:



Lacey Police:



Olympia Police:



Tumwater Police:



Yelm Police:



Tenino Police:



Nisqually Tribal Police:


Fireworks are banned in Olympia and Lacey, but not in Tumwater or the unincorporated areas of the county.

Quackenbush attributed the increase in calls to the hot weather and to more people being attuned to the warm and dry conditions.

He also acknowledged that some people’s concerns Saturday were not appropriate for a 911 call, but he also doesn’t want to discourage someone from calling 911 if they have a public safety concern.

“The dispatchers are truly the unsung heroes in all of this,” he said.