North Whatcom Fire and Rescue (NWFR) Chief Tom Fields was named fire chief of the year by the Washington Fire Chief’s Association (WFCA) at their annual meeting in Spokane last month.
Fields was cited for operational changes in NWFR, his involvement in precedent setting growth management issues in Washington State, and for administering the merger of Whatcom County fire Protection Districts 3 and 13. Using a combination of federal grants and other revenue sources, Fields hired 24 new firefighters in order to provide 24/7 staffing at Birch Bay, Blaine and rural Lynden stations.
“As a result, the district has seen a dramatic decrease in average response times from 10 minutes 7 seconds to 8 minutes 5 seconds, a nearly 20 percent decrease,” said assistant chief Henry Hollander.
In 2006 NWFR commissioners appealed Whatcom County’s approval of two Birch Bay area developments in court because they felt that the approval had been granted without adequate fire and emergency response services planned or in place. The courts ruled in NWFR’s favor which led to the county reconsidering its approval process, setting a precedent for the consideration of fire district service levels in future growth management decisions throughout Washington.
Fields was also cited for coordinating the merger of Whatcom County Fire Districts 3 and 13 into the new District 21. This helped simplify the operational and administrative functions of NWFR into one district serving the combined 147 square miles of the former districts, including Blaine, Birch Bay, Custer, Laurel and the unincorporated areas surrounding Lynden.