STANWOOD — Faced with the option of merging the city’s fire department with neighboring districts, Stanwood has hired a new fire chief.
That man, Kevin Taylor, said people should not assume his hiring means the city has ruled out a merger.
"None of those doors are closed," Taylor said a few hours after he started work Monday. "I’m directed by the mayor to explore all options."
Mayor Herb Kuhnly was unavailable for comment.
Taylor will take over for Nick Hanson, a volunteer who was serving as interim chief for the past 20 months.
Taylor said he has seen the growing pains that small fire departments go through as their towns develop. The 44-year-old Snohomish man has worked as a firefighter almost 25 years, starting as a volunteer and working his way up to assistant chief at the Edmonds Fire Department.
Before that, he spent most of his career at the 15-station, 140-employee Eastside Fire and Rescue in Issaquah. In 2003, he worked as a consultant doing anti-terrorism training for the Department of Homeland Security.
Taylor’s hiring was the first of several made possible by the passage of a levy in 2003. A new fire station with sleeping quarters and a kitchen will allow Stanwood to hire three more firefighters and shift to 24-hour service.
"We’re making those moves in the upcoming months," Taylor said.
He said he was involved in mergers in east King County as well as the transition of an all-volunteer medic unit in south Snohomish County into a full-time paid squad.
That experience will be helpful, he said, because Stanwood is one of the last all-volunteer medic units in the county.
Bob Schmitt, a battalion chief for the Edmonds Fire Department, said Taylor was instrumental in establishing the battalion chief position in Edmonds. That allowed the department to have a commander on the scene immediately, instead of having to phone the chief and wait for orders.
"I think he has a lot of progressive ideas, a lot of energy," Schmitt said.
In January, the much-larger fire department nearby, Camano Fire and Rescue, made an offer to the city to handle the Stanwood department’s administrative duties. That, in turn, would free up money for both departments to hire more firefighters.
Camano Fire and Rescue has 14 full-time firefighters, including the chief and an assistant chief responsible for training. The department also has about 60 volunteers. It covers all of Camano Island’s 16,000 to 22,000 residents, depending on summer residency, with five stations.
The Stanwood Fire Department has three full-time firefighters and about 20 volunteers to cover the city limits and a population of about 4,000.
Taylor said his task is to learn from the people who have already been doing the job in Stanwood.
"I’m going to spend the next two weeks with mostly my ears open," Taylor said. "I’m sure they’ve got some good ideas."
Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or email@example.com.