North Whidbey fire chief heads north to Alaska

Amid recent strife within the district, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Mark Kirko has resigned.

He accepted a fire chief position in Alaska.

Kirko wished the best for North Whidbey Fire upon his departure, but cited tension with one fire commissioner as part of his reason for leaving. TJ Lamont, Marvin Koorn and Jerry Goen serve as commissioners for the district; Kirko did not specify which commissioner he had disagreements with.

“One of the major needs of the department is to get the firefighters and the commissioners more comfortable working together,” he said.

Koorn said he thought the board worked well with the chief. Board chairman Lamont did not respond to requests for comment.

Kirko was hired in 2015 as deputy fire chief and became interim chief in 2017. Since then, Kirko’s designation remained “interim,” and he didn’t have an employment contract.

He said the board’s decision not to make him the full-time chief “brought up the question of trust” between the commissioners and himself.

An ongoing internal investigation into Kirko halted with his resignation with no report, Koorn said.

Kirko said he understood the commissioners’ positions, but he thought the district needed to go in a different direction.

“District two is so far behind in so many things,” he said.

It has been a long time since the district has passed a levy lid lift or bond, he said, and the result is overdue maintenance on engines, buildings and equipment.

There are seven stations and two of them don’t have bathrooms inside, he said. Other buildings are falling into disrepair.

“That’s a concern,” he said.

He’s also worried about the decline in volunteers, which is something impacting fire districts across the nation.

He said many of these departments are transitioning to more paid positions, but that isn’t something North Whidbey Fire could currently afford.

“There’s going to need to be some change in income or some decline in services,” Kirko said.

Kirko said he’s going to miss the district personnel and the area.

“It was enjoyable for the most part,” he said of his time with North Whidbey Fire. “I’ve enjoyed the relationships with the people here and with the other fire departments.”

The district is in the process of a national search for a new chief. The deadline to apply was June 7.

Kirko said he’s tried to support the search process and create a smooth transition.

His advice for the new chief: “Have trust and faith in the people here” and “stay vigilant in trying to get the mission accomplished.”

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