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Wanted: Fire chief

The Washington Volunteer Fire Department is officially looking to hire a temporary chief.

“We want someone who can come in and organize us,” said Judi Stewart, president of the Washington County Water District board, which governs the fire department. “It might be a temporary position or it might not. That will be open for discussion.”

Former Chief Mervin Lee need not apply. Lee was fired in July after an audit of the fire department by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection found a lack of financial and operational documentation, as well as no operating equipment.



A majority of the 14-member department quit after the firing, but about half were persuaded to return to work temporarily.

Stewart said the board had a legal obligation to terminate Lee because board members would be personally liable if someone was hurt due to the lack of proper equipment or training.




According to the CDF report, the department’s fire engine and pickup truck were about to fall apart; the department did not have a reliable communication system and the firefighters were not qualified to give some types of aid.

The department is working to acquire equipment and money to start the climb toward respectability. CDF is currently helping the department apply for a $6,000 grant for medical supplies through the federal government. Paper work was also filed to declare Washington a “local emergency,” which would open some doors that make it possible to help the town with money or even staff a CDF engine and three firefighters in the town for some time.

The resolution is expected to be approved by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

The requirements for the interim chief position include a high school diploma, a knowledge of the surrounding area, and an ability to manage others.

Stewart said the board will look to hire from within the Washington community, but not necessarily from within the department.

” I don’t think we could get a volunteer to commute (from Grass Valley or Nevada City),” Stewart said.

The deadlines for applications is Friday. After the deadline passes, qualified applicants will meet with the board. Stewart said a volunteer chief will hopefully be hire one or two weeks after that.

Meanwhile, Washington will continue to be protected by CDF, the U.S. Forest Service and Nevada County Consolidated Fire Department.


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