Update: February 5, 2020BC Vandertoorn

Bothell Battalion Chief Becomes Washington State Task Force 1 Leader

In March of 2014, Battalion Chief Jim Vandertoorn received an unforgettable call. A devastating mudslide had struck the town of Oso and FEMA’s Washington State Task Force 1 Team was to deploy. When the team arrived at the scene, they spent weeks performing search and rescue operations. It was amidst the chaos and destruction, that fellow Task Force 1 members saw something unique in BC Vandertoorn.

What they saw was an innate ability to bring people together, an ability to lead. This year, one of six Washington State Task Force 1 Leader positions became available, and BC Vandertoorn was elected by fellow colleagues to carry the torch. This is an extremely rare and well-deserved opportunity. BC Vandertoorn says what excites him most about being a Task Force 1 Leader is having the opportunity to “serve his country by bringing departments together to accomplish life-saving goals.”


To date, BC Vandertoorn possesses more than 30 years of firefighting experience. At 16, he made the decision to pursue the fire service, and when he graduated high school, he joined a hot shot crew and traveled across the country fighting wildfires. 

BC Vandertoorn moved to Washington state in 1992 and a year later joined the Bothell Fire Department. BC Vandertoorn has always had a passion for “the craft and technical aspects of firefighting,” and he played a significant role in founding and leading Bothell Fire’s Technical Rescue Teams which specialize in confined spaces, rope, structural collapse, water and trench rescue. He also created the department’s first-ever wildland firefighting team and served as the team lead for over a decade. In 2010, BC Vandertoorn was given the chance to join the Washington State Task Force 1 team and that is when his journey with FEMA began.

As a department, we could not be prouder or more humbled to have such an experienced, driven and talented individual on our team. “Vandy” will excel in this new role and we’re thrilled that one of our own is saving lives across the country, and providing aid during some of the nation’s largest disasters.

Washington State Task Force 1              

Washington State Task Force 1 is one of FEMA’s 28 Urban Search and Rescue Teams (USAR). It is comprised of 280 personnel and broken into three separate rotations. Each rotation has two task force leaders who oversee 70 personnel. FEMA Task Forces deploy to all-hazard incidents when federal aid is requested.