CANNON BEACH — The Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District has narrowed down the finalists for fire chief to three candidates.

“I think the board has three very strong candidates to choose from,” interim Fire Chief Jim Stearns said Monday. He is hoping for an early May decision so the new chief can start by June.

On Saturday, five candidates came to Cannon Beach and went through interviews with a panel of community members and a technical group made up of area fire chiefs.

Cannon Beach fire district’s board of directors then interviewed three finalists recommended by the two panels.

The candidates are Matt Benedict, Helix fire department chief and assistant fire chief and fire marshal of Pendleton’s fire department; Gary Woodson, former Pendleton fire chief currently working for the state Department of Corrections; and John West, regional training coordinator for the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training and former Lincoln City fire training officer.

Salary for the chief’s job is $67,500 to $75,000, depending on qualifications.

The board is looking to replace former Fire Chief Mike Balzer, who was fired in October. Balzer has since filed a lawsuit against the fire district claiming wrongful dismissal.

Three fire board members turned back a recall election in early April. The recall effort stemmed from frustration among some residents over the board’s handling of Balzer’s firing.

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