Former fire commissioner candidate dropped from roster

A longtime firefighter and recent fire commissioner candidate has been dropped from the volunteer rolls of Island County Fire District 3 because of unspecified safety infractions, district officials said Monday.

Don Carscadden, a 10-year veteran of the district, was taken off the roster by a unanimous vote of the three fire district commissioners at their meeting Nov. 12.

The vote followed an hour-long closed session in which Chief Dan Stout outlined the case against Carscadden, said Kenon Simmons, commission chairman.

“It was an information session for us,” Simmons said. “It was Dan’s suggestion. We probably should have responded sooner, but we didn’t think it would have been fair to Don, since he was running for the position.”

“It’s all political,” Carscadden said Monday, declining to discuss details of his removal from the roster. “They’ve got a chief who doesn’t care about the district, and it just goes on down the line.”

Stout said Monday that Carscadden, 61, was cited for safety violations after responding to two incidents on the same day last May. One was a vehicle accident, the other a structure fire, Stout said.

He said line officers at both scenes wrote up what they considered to be infractions by Carscadden, and that the decision to drop him from the roster was made after a lengthy investigation by district officials.

Stout declined to discuss the nature of the alleged infractions, or their severity.

He said that following the investigation, a “warning letter” was sent to Carscadden, according to district policy.

The letter removed Carscadden from active status. In order to be reinstated, Carscadden was required to sign it, acknowledging the infractions, and return it to the district, where it would be placed in his personnel file.

Stout said such a letter is the “least punitive” of measures under district guidelines that can be taken in such cases.

“We never heard back from him in more than 100 days,” Stout said, who added that the decision eventually was made, according to district policy, to drop him completely from the volunteer roster.

Carscadden, a resident of South Whidbey since 1996, owns and operates Island Crane Services in Freeland.

He has nearly 34 years in active fire service with Snohomish County, Mountlake Terrace, the Port of Seattle, and the South End fire district.

During the primary campaign for the commissioner’s seat, Carscadden was adamant on the subject of the morale of experienced volunteers, and the need for a change in the administration.

He also called for the reinstatement of the part-time paid firefighters, and urged that monthly commissioner meetings be moved from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. so more people could attend.

The district’s part-time program was dropped by the district late last year as a cost-saving measure.

During the campaign, Carscadden criticized the district’s decision not to let the terminated part-timers return as volunteers.

In August’s primary election, Carscadden finished a narrow last behind volunteer firefighter Frank Mestemacher and two other candidates for the fire commission post.

Incumbent Mike Helland won re-election to the six-year position in November, besting another longtime firefighter and former commissioner, Gary Gabelein.

Meanwhile, Stout, 66, is retiring after 43 years in various fire services, the past five with the South End district.

He will be replaced in February by Harry L. “Rusty” Palmer, 57, the current fire chief of the Jackson Hole, Teton County, Wyo. fire department, who has agreed to a 3-year contract with District 3.

Stout said there are procedures in place that would permit Carscadden to attempt a return to volunteer status, but reinstatement would have to be approved by the commissioners.

Carscadden said he’s unsure if having a new chief would convince him to try for a comeback.

“I don’t know yet,” he said. “I have a lot of other things going on.”

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