When over 90 percent of your assessable parcels are within one mile of a recorded wetland, storm water facility or a storm drainage system; and over 99 percent are within two miles, you better have a mosquito control force that’s accustomed to rigorous demands. Clark County Mosquito Control District in Vancouver, Washington has exactly that, with seven of its 12 employees splitting duties between fighting fires and fighting mosquitoes.
John Jacobson, manager of the district, says the skill sets and capabilities of the firefighters on his team—himself included—fit nicely with the district’s needs for problem solving, mechanical aptitude, work ethic, integrity and the physicality of struggling through wetlands. With two sides of its county bordered by the Columbia River, Clark County is affected by rising river levels, which significantly adds to the size of its wetlands.
Clark County functions as a part-time mosquito control district, with a season that runs from April 1 through October 1. It had been a challenge to identify seasonal workers, but the district discovered that firefighters’ schedules allow them to be reliable part-time employees. Clark County Mosquito Control District is responsible for treating 656 square miles and for protecting approximately 475,000 citizens. The majority of its work consists of surveillance, ground larviciding, and treating over 49,000 storm water catch basins as many as three times a year, when larvae are detected.
CCMCD recently invested in laboratory microscopes and Biogents traps to improve their surveillance efforts of invasive species such as Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. John anticipates the district’s needs will become more complex if the Aedes day-biters are detected, and it will eventually require full-time employees.
Clark County Mosquito Control District is also prepared with an emergency aerial adulticide treatment plan in the event of a West Nile virus outbreak. The east side and the central portion of the state have had locally-acquired West Nile virus cases. “We have just one county between us and West Nile,” John said.
Clark County’s lab technician performs all adult mosquito collections, identification and testing of mosquito pools, using WNV RAMP tests, in-house. When we spoke to John, in early August, 247 traps had been collected thus far for the season and 100 pools had been tested for WNV. Until the county identifies a locally-acquired WNV case, its focus will be on Aedes aegypti and albopictus, for which they set traps at used tire stores and nurseries along the I-5 corridor that runs through the county.
For now, the part-time team of firefighters are able to meet the county’s demand for mosquito control. “We’ve found that pool of employees to be reliable and hard-working, with the relevant life skills to perform the job,” added John.