Clallam County Fire District 3’s staff is shifting with new hires, promotions and retirements while continuing steps to plan for the future.
Two of the district’s top positions will need to be filled after chief Ben Andrews announced last week his intent to retire by April 2024, and assistant fire chief Dan Orr made the announcement earlier this month to retire this year, too.
The pair “have done an amazing job,” said fire commissioner Steve Chinn, noting their decisions come after long careers in fire service.
“To fill those shoes, it’s gonna be a really big task,” he said
Andrews said “change in leadership happens,” and that he planned to retire at the end of 2024 but moved it to April to be more with family.
“I’ve put my time in and done a lot of great things for the department,” Andrews said.
Andrews started as fire chief in August 2015, replacing retiring chief Steve Vogel. He first served with Jefferson County Fire District 3 (Port Ludlow Fire & Rescue) before joining Sequim in 2003.
Orr started with the fire district in December 2015, replacing retiring assistant chief Roger Moeder. He started with the Pismo Beach Fire Department in 1985, and served 15 years with the Santa Maria Fire Department, serving as its fire chief for four years.
Chinn said that coincidentally, the district bringing in Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) of Oregon to help look at the district’s leadership structure and strategic planning in late April, and potentially to help them recruit new chiefs.
“When you have top level management leaving, that’s the time to look at a change,” Andrews said.
ESCI has helped other fire districts look at their staffing structure, he said, and ask, “Does it fit the community’s needs? Do we want a new model?”
Said Chinn, “We’ve got tough decisions ahead” — referring to potentially building new fire stations in Carlsborg and Dungeness while implementing new positions.
While potential leadership structural changes could happen, Andrews said battalion chiefs and positions below those won’t change on the organization chart.
Three hires, effective May 1, were announced to become the district’s first battalion chiefs — current shift captains Stefanie Anderson and Chris Turner, and Elliot Jones, a captain and acting battalion chief with the Las Vegas City Fire Department.
Anderson has been with Fire District 3 for more than 20 years and Turner for 24 years.
The three will each be shift commanders for a 24-hour shift, and responsible for the day-to-day operations each shift, and programs, including Training, Emergency Medical Services, Community Risk Reduction and Special Teams, according to fire district officials.
Andrews said battalion chiefs are common for agencies of Fire District 3’s size and larger coverage areas, and they plan to have a soft transition to start.
“One of the biggest things they’ll do is go out and have focused time in stations with firefighters and captains to have a much better pulse of what’s going on,” Andrews said.
The fire chief and assistant chiefs work on the policy level, he said, while battalion chiefs work on implementation.
Two captains were named on March 1 — Travis Anderson, firefighter/EMT, and Jack Hueter, firefighter/paramedic — after serving as acting captains for many months, testing, interviews and more.
Anderson has served with the district 16 years and Hueter for 20 years. They’ll be probationary captains for six months before a badge pinning ceremony.
Anderson and Hueter replace the late-Captain Chad Cate and Captain Joel McKeen, who is now an assistant chief with Port Angeles Fire Department.
Last October, all lieutenants were converted to captains and the lieutenant rank was retired, fire district officials said.
On March 20, five firefighters/paramedics finished their one-year probationary periods: Jeremy Church, Mark Karjalainen, Bryant Kroh, Erik Payne and Eliza Winne.
Church, Karjalainen, Kroh and Winne were career firefighters/paramedics with Port Angeles Fire Department, and Payne returned to the district after working in Kitsap County, according to fire district officials.
Andrews said there are 13 firefighters on duty per shift, and that will shift to 14 after district leaders test later this spring to fill vacant positions left from promotions.
Three new positions will add one firefighter to each shift, he said, and two more positions will be added to fill in for sick and vacation time and limit overtime.
A firefighter will be promoted to captain after testing in June, according to fire district officials, to fill a vacancy from a battalion chief promotion.
Adding personnel comes after an increase in call load for firefighters.
Fire district officials report there were 8,404 calls in 2021 and 200 more in 2022 (about 8,600) with about 75-80 percent of calls medically related.
With duty chief responsibilities moved to battalion chiefs from fire and assistant chiefs, who are responding from their homes after hours, Andrews said it’ll be “a new and improved response.”
For more information about Clallam County Fire District 3, call 360-683-4242 or visit ccfd3.org.