South King Fire to hire outside candidate for assistant chief of operations

Decision to be made in the coming days, Mataftin says.

South King Fire and Rescue (SKFR) is considering three outside candidates for the assistant chief of operations position, according to the department.

The three candidates are Frederick Pearce from Golder Ranch Fire District in Tuscon, Arizona; Ned Vander Pol from Vista Fire Department in California; and Dave Van Valkenburg from the Kirkland Fire Department. The department used Issaquah-based Prothman recruitment firm to find candidates.

As an assistant chief position, the hiring decision will be made by Fire Chief Dave Mataftin.

“However, there is a possibility — and I’ll emphasize possibility — that this individual could become the fire chief when I decide the retire,” Mataftin said on an Aug. 26 phone call.

Mataftin was appointed as interim chief in January and signed a two-year contract as fire chief shortly after his appointment. His is nearly nine months into his contract, which expires at the end of next year. If mutually agreed upon by Mataftin and the South King Fire and Rescue Board of Commissioners, Mataftin could extend his service by one year.

“The longest run I can get is through that extension,” Mataftin said.

Due to the potential that the person hired as chief of operations could eventually be in the running for fire chief, the board of commissioners wanted to conduct preliminary interviews, he said.

An interim chief of operations role is currently held by Shane Smith. The position oversees all operations of the department, including all emergency response, all fire-related operations and training functions. The salary range listed on the job posting is $181,200 to $201,000.

Once a candidate is hired, Smith will be reassigned to his original duty as chief of special operations, overseeing all special teams including Hazmat, marine, rescue swimmers, technical rescue and emergency management, along with providing mentorship for the new hire.

As for the future of South King Fire, Mataftin says he hopes the department is able to secure stable funding and possibly increase staffing, which could result in building a new fire station. Call volumes have been continuously increasing, but “our staffing has remained essentially flat for many years,” he said.

SKFR has approximately 150 firefighters.

“My hope for the department is that we’re able to secure very stable funding,” Mataftin said, adding that the department is beginning to explore the possibility of implementing a service benefit charge. Under Washington state law, a fire district is able to collect a benefit charge from residential and commercial property owners — if approved by voters. It is not a charge-per-call, but instead is based on size, risk and other factors of properties.

“We’re long-range planning to find stable funding for the fire department,” he said.