FD3 finds a new fire chief

The guard is changing at Island County Fire District 3 headquarters.

On Feb.1, Don Smith, the district’s chief since 1996 when he replaced former chief Bruce Klassen, will retire. Smith’s replacement is Dan Stout, who is chief of Spokane County Fire District 8.

Stout joined Fire District 8 in 1992 as the district’s training officer. He was promoted to chief in 1994. Prior to working for Spokane, he retired as a battalion chief in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he had worked for 25 years.

Fire District 3’s board of commissioners, with the assistance of a personnel hiring firm, began their search for Smith’s replacement last fall. Smith notified commissioners of his intention to resign early last year.

Dennis Webster, the chairman of the FD3 board of commissioners, said he and his fellow commissioners are confident in their choice for the chief’s position.

“We are sad to see Don leave, but at the same time look forward to working with the new chief.”

Stout, 61, will earn $80,000 a year as the new FD3 chief, $19,000 more than the job paid when Smith started in 1996. The starting salary is a pay raise for Stout, who earns $73,700 annually in Spokane.

During his tenure on the east side of the state, Stout pushed his district to built a new fire station, helped form a citizen-advisory committee and fought hundreds of blazes alongside his firefighters.

In coming to FD3, Stout takes over the leadership of a fire district that has grown considerably since Smith was hired. Almost every piece of firefighting equipment has been replaced over the past eight years and the district has two new fire stations, one in Freeland and one on Saratoga Road. Old fire stations at Freeland, Saratoga and Bush Point were retired during the past two years.

Stout will lead a firefighting force that includes about 120 volunteers and two full-time, paid officers in addition to himself.

The district’s outgoing chief, Smith, said he thinks Stout is a good choice for the district. Like Stout, Smith came to FD3 by way of Southern California, having served as a division fire chief in Coronado, Calif. before coming to Whidbey Island. He noted that he will remain available for consultation with the new chief for several weeks after the leadership transition.

Smith, now 55, is retiring from active firefighting duty. He has expressed his intention to work as a consultant in the fire fighting industry.

On Feb. 1, the public is invited to an open house at the Freeland Station to meet Stout and say goodbye to Smith.

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