Commission to search nation for fire chief

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

The Pierce County Fire District No. 22 Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to conduct a national search to replace East Pierce Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Packer who died July 26.

The board voted 5-4 to go beyond the boarders of East Pierce and conduct a national search, which will include interim Chief John McDonald who has been heading up the department since Packer’s passing.

Packer, who was 49, died while scouting a wildfire at the Panther Fire south of Happy Camp in Siskiyou County in northern California.

Rick Kuss, board chairman, said an ad hoc committee has been formed to advise the board on how to conduct the search.

One of the recommendations the committee will present is whether the search should be conducted internally by the board members or a consulting firm should be hired.

Kuss said the committee’s decision will be presented and voted on at the next board meeting, 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Public Safety Building.

“I strongly believe in the committee concept,” Kuss siad.

The chairman said the plan is to hire a new chief by Jan. 31.

Commissioner Ray Bunk said the decision to conduct a national search for a chief rather than hiring McDonald, who is already on the job, was very difficult.

“I think every commissioner lost sleep over this,” Bunk said. “We expect (McDonald) to be close to the top if not at the top. I believe he is exceptionally well qualified. But I think people want to see that we are making the right decision. I want to make sure I’m doing the best I can for East Pierce.”

Bunk said he understood some people may disagree with the commission’s decision.

“We are all going through a grieving and growing process,” Bunk said.

Bunk is a member of the committee advising the board on the search. He said the search and hiring can be completed by January.

Kuss stated the cost can not be determined until the type of search is approved by the board.

The chairman said this is the first time he has been involved in searching for a fire chief since he has been on the commission.

The five members who voted to approve the motion to do a national search were Kuss, Bunk, Mike Cathey, Rick Kilbourn and Andrew Longstreth. Voting no was Red Mendenhall, Cheryle Bylin, Victor Proulx and Karlyne McGinnis.

The ad hoc committee members are Bunk, Cathey and Kilbourn. Cathey will be the chairman and Longstreth will be an alternate

Reach Dennis Box at or 360-802-8209.