Transition

The fire district has been without a permanent fire chief following the retirement of Dennis Hoke in May. Scappoose Fire District's Jeff Pricher was appointed the CRFR acting fire chief following Hoke's retirement.

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Update Post June 26

The Columbia River Fire & Rescue (CRFR) Board of Directors has selected CRFR Division Chief of Operations Eric Smythe as the agency's interim Fire Chief.

The board made the appointment during a special meeting Thursday evening, June 25.

Previous Chronicle coverage posted June 25:

Transition is taking place at Columbia River Fire & Rescue.

Since early May, the fire agency district has been without a permanent fire chief following the retirement of Dennis Hoke. Scappoose Fire District's Jeff Pricher was appointed at that time as interim fire chief.

This week, the CRFR Board of Directors is expected to name an interim chief and launch a recruiting process for a new chief.

CRFR Board President Hans Feige and CRFR public information officer Jennifer Motherway told The Chronicle that the search process will be managed by an outside organization which will recruit for CRFR.

“The process to fill the full time role should start in July and we hope to complete that by the end of the year,” Feige and Motherway said. “The interim chief will likely be one of our current District Chiefs, but the Board is still discussing that.”

Chief position

The CRFR chief position has a maximum annual salary budgeted at $143,000. The position of chief is a contracted position and the CRFR Board will negotiate the actual salary with the candidate, according to Feige and Motherway.

The CRFR chief supervises all aspects of the district’s operations, planning, logistics and finances. The chief is also required to have a high level of delegation in assigning work and responsibility to all divisions and departments and reviews their work for technical competency, quality of work, column of acceptable work, compliance with district policy and procedures and ability to operate as a member of a team, according to the CRFR chief job description.

CRFR serves 185 square miles in Columbia County and operates with 36 career firefighters, four emergency medical services (EMS) members only, one community paramedic, one recruitment and retention/public information officer, three division chiefs, two EMS billing, one finance director, one compliance officer, two mechanics and 27 volunteers.

IGA terminated

Columbia River Fire & Rescue and Scappoose Rural Fire District will be officially terminating an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on June 30, 2020. The vote to terminate the agreement took place at the March 12, 2020 joint board meeting.

Since July 1, 2016, under the IGA, both organizations have shared senior staff members including the fire chief, division chiefs, and recruitment and retention coordination/public information officer positions.

According to a CRFR release issued this week, beginning in April 2020, the CRFR Board of Directors and fire district administrative personnel have been working on plans to manage the transition of duties for staff beginning July 1, 2020. The CRFR Board of Directors has been engaging in discussions with career and volunteer staff during this process.

Additionally, planning has taken place during monthly board meetings, including a board workshop on May 30, 2020, to determine the attributes needed for the next fire chief and how best to transition moving forward. The District transitional plans completed this spring by district staff have been incorporated into the 2020-21 fiscal year budget for implementation over the course of the coming year.

Next steps

The release also states, as Columbia River Fire & Rescue moves through this transition, district staff will continue to provide the high level of service to the community that we have seen for many years. In preparation for the transition, the district has been reaching out to career staff, district volunteers and former staff members with specific skill sets, such as Fire Inspector, that the district can utilize as it prepares to move forward.

It has been quite humbling to see the willingness of so many people to help our district through this important transition and to make sure the needs of our community are always met.

Columbia River Fire & Rescue has scheduled a special board meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 25, to appoint an interim fire chief for the district. The recruitment process will start in July to hire a permanent fire chief for Columbia River Fire & Rescue. The process is expected to take several months. The board hopes to appoint a permanent Fire Chief before the end of 2020.

Columbia River Fire & Rescue will continue to operate by mutual aid service agreement with Scappoose Fire District which has been in place for many years prior to the current IGA. As a result of the termination of the intergovernmental agreement, Columbia River Fire & Rescue will no longer be sharing positions and resources with Scappoose Rural Fire District. While this news is an announcement of change, the district sees many potential positive improvements for Columbia River Fire & Rescue in the future.

Follow this developing story at thechronicleonline.com and in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.

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