Fire chief David England resigns abruptly

Published on Thu, Aug 2, 2001 by Jack Kintner

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Fire chief David England resigns abruptly

By Jack Kintner

Newly appointed North Whatcom Fire & Rescue Services (NWFRS) chief Dave England abruptly resigned Tuesday night, one week after being appointed chief by the NWFRS board of directors. His resignation came during a regular meeting of the board held at fire district 3 facilities in Lynden. England simultaneously resigned as chief of fire district 13, a position he has held for five years.

The board had adjourned into executive session almost immediately after convening at 7 p.m. Two hours later they emerged to re-convene the public meeting and immediately moved to accept what board president Rich Bosman called “the letter of resignation which is before us.”

Following the unanimous voice vote, Bosman looked at chief England and expressed his regret and that of the board at losing “a man of your training and talents.” England nodded, rose and walked out of the room as the audience of mostly volunteer and career firefighters looked on in surprise.
Contacted in the parking lot before driving off, England offered no comment, but then added, “Hopefully the truth will come out eventually.” He did not elaborate. In his letter of resignation he mentioned “a significant level of distrust within the Board of Directors toward me” and stated, “Of greatest concern is the apparent willingness by some to accept the word of a very small, vocal minority regarding actions of the Fire Chief.”

England’s resignation is effective September 1, but the board chose to immediately appoint assistant chief Mike Campbell as the new chief. They instructed him to begin immediately searching to fill several departmental vacancies as well as implementing the transition to a fully operational NWFRS by next January 1. They also recommended Campbell be appointed chief of fire district 13, which was done by the three district 13 commissioners in attendance, Butch Hinchey, Eddie Lathers and Bill Salter, after the NWFRS board adjourned.

That adjournment came quickly once a decision was made to continue the discussion of remaining business, primarily the “initial volunteer management and integration plan,” to a subsequent meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 8, again at district 3 in Lynden. Chief Campbell asked the volunteers in attendance to take the document home and respond to it in writing by next Tuesday so he could have answers ready by next week’s meeting.

England’s move came as a complete surprise to everyone, though some found out earlier in the evening than others. England told Campbell privately, shortly before the long executive session ended. “I had no idea,” said Campbell, “but you have to respect the integrity of his decision.”

“We definitely had some differences with chief England in achieving the goal of a smoothly functioning NWFRS,” said board president Bosman, “even though clearly we all want this plan to work, and that includes Dave England. But, given these differences, he felt it best to resign now and let us be on about our work, and we honored his request. We also wanted to let chief Campbell begin assembling his team.”

There are four battalion chief positions to fill plus that of assistant chief, Campbell’s former position. “There will be no gaps in coverage and the level of performance will not drop since these are all new positions we’re adding,” Campbell said.

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