Thomas Bridge, Volunteer
Islands’ Oil Spill Association


Can you share a little bit about yourself?

I grew up in a river kayaking and canoeing family. I consider myself lucky in that all manner of outdoor pursuits were a part of my early and continuing fabric. Hiking, camping, climbing mountains, technical rock climbing, and sailing were but a short list of adventures.

I went on to become a mountain guide, and I specialized in the highest peaks of North and South America, local classes in Washington, and private summits trips and winter ice climbing in Alberta. As a guide, I was always interested in improving myself. I was trained in technical rescue, risk management, and wilderness medicine at a high level. I was also involved in several difficult rescues. A love of adventure and outdoor pursuits remained. That love brought me to the greater Orcas area.

As we know so intimately, a disaster can be waiting for you right around the bend. A car accident killed my brother and sister-in-law and injured both of their children. So, we welcomed my nephew Kyle into our lives, along with his special needs. Kyle is a large reason of what brought us here—a rural setting that possesses a strong sense of community.

It was these two things that brought us to San Juan County, specifically Crane Island.

Since arriving here, we have enjoyed our outer island self-sufficiency. We also enjoy helping others with their various projects—milling lumber, moving heavy things to remote places with our barge, and more recently, volunteering with emergency response and the Islands’ Oil Spill Association (IOSA). Orcas has been great place to add to our list of adventures!

Tell us a little bit about the organization you volunteer at.

Everyone cares a great deal about the environment, especially the waters surrounding our islands. The IOSA is a volunteer, grass roots group that you hope you never need. We respond to various pollution and oil spills within the county.

You can become a volunteer with as little as an eight-hour introductory training session. Additional training in safety, scene organization, personal protective equipment (PPE), and hazardous materials will allow you to be at the front line, safely.

We have some upcoming field practice sessions, which will increase our efficiency, safety, and teamwork. Our response time is significantly faster than the larger commercial groups out of Seattle because we are local.

IOSA does intra-agency cooperation and has made training available to other emergency response services (EMS) personnel. We maintain equipment and supplies throughout the county, sometimes in very remote locations.

What does volunteering do for you?

It’s a great way to share your resources, skills, and experiences. It’s a wonderful way to meet your neighbors, learn, and grow as a person. We can all give back a little and make the world a better place, even in a small way.


Visit the Islands’ Oil Spill Association website to learn more. If you would like to get involved, send them an email.

If you would like to learn about other volunteer opportunities on Orcas, please email Ed. He would love to get together for tea/coffee to chat about your interests.