North Whatcom Fire and Rescue (NWFR) commissioners are hoping to choose a candidate as fire chief before summer arrives.
The search process started in earnest in December when NWFR staff placed notices in trade publications advertising the position. By January 31, the district had received 21 applications from across the nation from candidates from Wisconsin, Texas, New York and Washington state among others.
“[The responses were] spread out pretty well,” district commissioner Bill Salter said.
After reviewing the applications, the selection committee, made up of Salter’s fellow district commissioner Rich Bosman and fire district 4 commissioner Steve Ness, narrowed the field down to seven on February 2. The next step will be to conduct interviews and choose the three best candidates in March, Salter explained. Commissioners hope to hire a new chief by July 1.
The list of six includes two applicants from Washington and one each from Colorado, Texas, British Columbia, and Wisconsin.
“There’s a lot of knowledge in these applicants,” Salter said.
The most desirable candidates are those with experience working with fire departments that manage both paid and volunteer firefighters, since NWFR includes both, Salter explained. The chosen applicant will also have experience working with emergency medical service (EMS) since the future of the countywide EMS system is uncertain, he added.
The former NWFR fire chief, Tom Fields, retired on January 1 after serving with the district since 2005.
During the consolidation with fire district 4, Fields and commissioners from both districts locked horns on how best to hire a new chief. Fields maintained the best way forward was to promote from within NWFR, but district 4 commissioners thought an open, nationwide search was the best route.