Smith to retire as fire chief

Fire District 3 will be looking for a new chief 19 months from now.

FD3 Chief Don Smith announced his retirement at a the commissioners meeting last month citing a desire to slow down and perhaps begin his own consulting business.

Smith, a veteran firefighter and chief from Coronado, Calif., was hired as the district's chief nine years ago. He said he is giving the district's commissioners more than a year's warning because he will not be finishing out his current contract.

"I chose to give the commissioners notice now because I will not be fulfilling a five-year contract," Smith said. "I want to work as a consultant for other volunteer fire districts and do some college teaching. It's time to slow down."

For Smith, though, it's business as usual between now and April 2004.

"I have some other items I would like to accomplish before I leave." Smith said.

He said he hopes to put a "sleeper" program in place at the Freeland and Clinton stations, meaning the stations will have 24-hour staffing with firefighters living at the stations. Smith said he also wants to hire two more paid captains to help administer the district.

"This district has grown tremendously over the past nine years," Smith said. "It is not made up of Billy Bob and the Yuk Yuks. We are in a rural area, but we have more equipment and more firefighters than the Edmonds and Everett departments combined."

All that requires managing, Smith said, and with two more chiefs in place there will be a total of three to help with operations and training. Paul Busch, the district's assistant chief, would supervise them.

The news of Smith's retirement did not come as a total shock to FD3 Commissioner Bob Elliot.

"He wants to call it quits. He is going to move on," Elliot said. "Don is a good administrator; everything is in order for the district to continue."

Both men said they hope to establish standard operating procedures for the volunteers and emergency medical technicians before Smith leaves his post.

Elliot indicated the commissioners would not rush into finding a replacement for Smith.

"This district has operated for two years without a chief, with an assistant chief running things," Elliot said. "That's one thing about a firehouse, it can run with an operations manager."

District Commissioner Mike Helland praised Smith for making a lot of improvements in the district.

"He has raised the threshold of performance of the district's staff and volunteers all for the benefit of the people in this district," he said.

"I have been impressed with his abilities and appreciated his willingness to put himself in harm's way to get things done," he said.

Helland says he is not looking forward to finding another chief.

"We will have to navigate the search process again and land a replacement," he said. "I expect it will be a long arduous process. I hate to seen a known quantity leave."

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