Five people in blue uniforms with white gloves are marching in a color guard. One is carrying a U.S. flag, and one is carrying a Washington state flag. Two people are carrying rifles. There are emergency vehicles in the background, and a tree on the left of the photo.
Medical Lake High School ROTC lead a convoy of first responder vehicles during the Lakeland Harvest Festival Parade.

Parade and barbecue honor heroes who helped save DSHS’ Lakeland Village from wildfire


Contact: Lisa Pemberton, DSHS Communications or 360–902–7844

MEDICAL LAKE — Gold and orange leaves swirled to the ground as Lakeland Village residents and staff lined up and waited along the parade route.

The DSHS residential habilitation center’s annual parade, featuring horses and dogs, classic cars and motorcycles, is always a big hit.

Four people are riding horses in front of a brick building on Lakeland Village’s campus.
A person is waving to the camera and has a dog on a leash, in front of a brick building at Lakeland Village. The person is wearing a burgundy jacket. The dog is wearing a blue scarf.
Left: Some Harvest Festival participants ride horses along Lakeland’s parade route. Right: Lakeland Psychologist Dr. Jane Schilling and her dog also walk in the parade.
Several classic cars and a long drag-race style car are driving in front of a group of parade viewers at Lakeland Village. There are trees with colorful fall foliage in the background.
A group of dragsters, rally cars and lifted trucks show off their powerful engines during the parade.

But this year’s parade had an extra dose of excitement: Sirens, horns and a dazzling display of flashing lights from a host of police cars, fire trucks and emergency vehicles. Many of those heroes were involved in helping save Lakeland’s residents — 168 at the time — and its 110-acre campus from the Gray Fire just eight weeks earlier.

Some residents held homemade cardboard signs with messages such as “Thank You Workers” and “Thank You Firefighters.” Many clapped and cheered as the emergency vehicles came through.

A person is holding a cardboard sign with the words “Thank you workers.” There are red, orange and green balloons painted on the sign.
Handmade resident “thank you” signs dot the crowds lined up along the route to celebrate campus heroes.

The guests of honor included Spokane County Fire Districts №3 and №10, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department and Spokane County Emergency Management’s Livestock Emergency Evacuation Team.

A volatile, quick-spreading fire

High winds, dry conditions and surrounding grasslands created what Lakeland Superintendent Tim Gerlitz described as a “firestorm.” The fire originated on Gray Road west of Medical Lake and was first reported at 12:27 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18.

At one point, later that afternoon, the entire campus was surrounded by flames, recalled Gerlitz.

“It got within 40 to 50 feet of all of our cottages,” Gerlitz said.

A large billow of smoke is above and behind a brick building. There is blue sky above it.
The fast-moving Gray Road Wildfire in Medical Lake, Wash. creeps closer to Eastern State Hospital where Lakeland staff and residents were seeking shelter.

During the next 72 hours, the Gray Fire grew to more than 10,000 acres. Level 3 evacuation orders were issued for the city of Medical Lake and surrounding areas. Lakeland Village residents were first evacuated to Pine Lodge, just off DSHS’ Eastern State Hospital campus. They later had to evacuate further into Eastern’s campus as the flames continued to grow.

The fire destroyed 259 homes and claimed one man’s life. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources is still investigating the cause of the fire; however, two lawsuits allege it was sparked by a malfunctioning outdoor light installed by Inland Power & Light Company.

“We needed this”

Eight weeks after the catastrophic event, green grass has begun to sprout and cover the charred ground. Nature was quick to reclaim the area, noted Lakeland Communications Consultant Colette Buck.

A person is riding a black horse, and the horse is decorated in flowers and has “LV Heroes” painted on it. A small donkey is next to the horse. In the background, you can see charred ground from the summer’s wildfire.
Connie Powers, one of many Harvest Festival parade organizers, rides her horse along the route while walking her donkey. In the background, a neighboring property is still charred, eight weeks after the fire.
A yellow water truck is driving by a brick building.
A 5,000 gallon tanker truck used to prevent the Gray Road fire from spreading to Lakeland draws cheers during the parade.

The parade’s vehicles are staged nearby. The lineup includes a 5,000-gallon water tank that quick-thinking DSHS Consolidated Support Service workers used to spray the road along the backside of campus, and that is believed to have helped save lives and structures, Gerlitz said.

There were many heroes that day, and the days following. They helped keep residents safe during the evacuation. They helped children at the on-campus day care. They didn’t leave when their shifts were over; they worked double shifts and longer.

“Everyone stepped up and went way above and beyond,” said Gerlitz.

A table of three people smile for the camera, they are all wearing dark blue uniforms. In the background, people are grilling food, and there are tables of people are talking and eating. Some of them are wearing law enforcement uniforms.
A group of wildland firefighters from Arcadia Initial Attack Unit enjoy their barbecue lunch served up by Lakeland administrative leaders.
Tonik Joseph and Tim Gerlitz are smiling for the camera, on a lawn. There is a water truck and brick building in the background. Tonik is wearing a red shirt and black shawl, and Gerlitz is wearing a blue checkered long sleeved button up shirt.
A person, who is going through a buffet style line for chips and burger fixings, reaches for a can of pop from a bin. There are several people in line, and several others who are serving up food.
Left: DSHS Assistant Secretary of the Developmental Disabilities Administration Dr. Tonik Joseph poses with Lakeland Superintendent Timothy Gerlitz during the Harvest Festival. Middle: Lakeland Infection Prevention Registered Nurse Anieca Ashley poses with Rangers from Washington State Parks. Right: Staff and Lakeland residents line up for a barbecue lunch during the Lakeland Harvest Festival.

After the parade, everyone was treated to a barbecue lunch served up by Lakeland administrators and DSHS’ Developmental Disabilities Administration leaders. There were games and activities, including a face-painting booth that was especially popular, and a row of vendors featuring resident-made ceramics, artwork and potted house plants.

Guests, residents and staff were treated to multiple musical performances by a community ukulele troupe strumming popular songs, and a Consolidated Support Services employee jamming out to resident favorites.

Two people are playing cornhole on the yard in front of a brick building. There are small leaves blanketing the ground. The people are wearing white pants and blue jackets.
Two people are in front of a barbecue grill. One is wearing an apron and serving up a bratwurst. They are both wearing sunglasses. There is a tree in the background, filled with yellow and gold leaves.
Left: Two Consolidated Support Services employees enjoy a relaxing game of cornhole on the Lakeland front lawn during the Harvest Festival. Right: Lakeland Assistant Superintendent Brendan Arkoosh cooks brats and burgers while Emergency Management Program Specialist Rafael Llamozas looks on with a smile.
Four people smile for a photo. They are smiling. Two of them are wearing medical scrubs. There is a brick building in the background.
Lakeland Quality Assurance Director Michele Sullivan (middle left), Resource RN Jodie Olsen (left), and nursing staff pose for the camera during the Lakeland Harvest Festival.

“It was wonderful,” said Lakeland Quality Assurance Manager Michele Sullivan. “I thought, ‘This is something, we really need to celebrate. We made it. We made it!’”

Registered Nurse 3 Deaon Vincent said she hasn’t seen so many people on the campus together since before the pandemic days.
“It was heartwarming to see everyone out and about,” Vincent said. “We needed this.”