Board selects outside interim fire leader

Jim Stearns

Cannon Beach Gazette

The Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District’s new interim fire chief is on duty. The district’s Board of Directors introduced Jim Stearns, of Hermiston, to the public Monday night during its regular monthly meeting.

The district provides firefighting and emergency service to the communities of Cannon Beach, Arch Cape and Falcon Cove. Board members interviewed Stearns and two other Special Districts Association of Oregon candidates, Dale Kamrath and Doug Dawson, in November in executive session. During a special meeting on Dec. 2, they selected Stearns.

“I think he’ll be a good new addition,” Board President Sharon Clyde said.

Former fire chief Mike Balzer was dismissed in mid-October due to personnel issues and Assistant Chief Frank Swedenborg has covered his post since. Stearns is working with Swedenborg, who is ready to retire and not looking to fill in permanently, to transition into the role.

Stearns spent 31 years — 20 as chief — with Hermiston Fire and Emergency Services. He has served on the state’s wildfire management team, performing as incident commander at one point, and been on a federal interagency wildfire team that primarily covered the Western states.

He has also volunteered for the Sumpter Volunteer Fire Department, where he owns a cabin.

“I retired and didn’t take to retirement well,” he said.

Cannon Beach is Stearns’ third interim gig since he began working for the Special Districts Association of Oregon. He most recently served as Washington County Fire District 2’s interim chief for six months.

He will likely be in Cannon Beach for half a year, as well.

Stearns is staying in the Cannon Beach RV Resort. His wife, Becky, is a retired school teacher who’s splitting her time between Cannon Beach and Hermiston. They have a daughter in Medford and two sons in the Seattle area.

Stearns said he is “anxious to meet folks in the community” and encourages residents to stop by and visit. When he interviewed for the position there were volunteer firefighters in attendance along with board members.

“It seemed clear to me everyone wanted to focus on the community and the department being an active part of that community,” he said. “That’s what I like to see and do.”

There has been some community opposition to Balzer’s termination. Residents expressed disappointment in the board’s handling of the situation during its November meeting.

Stearns said his outlook is to “start from today and move forward.”

He and the Special Districts Association of Oregon will assist in the search for a permanent Cannon Beach Fire and Rescue leader.

Bill Anderson:

hours and pay for Jim Stearns

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