Kittitas County officials are leaning towards a solution to the county’s fire marshal needs that splits the responsibilities between two positions.

Kittitas County Sheriff Gene Dana, Undersheriff Clay Myers, Community Services Director Dan Carlson, Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Rich Elliott and the Kitittas County commissioners met Wednesday to discuss the issue. The suggestion is to put the fire investigation portion of the job with the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office and the fire safety and inspection tasks with the Kittitas County Community Development Services.

Elliott said Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue and many other stations in the county are looking forward to separating fire safety and inspection responsibilities from fire investigation and enforcement responsibilities.

“I think what has happened in the past (fire marshal) is the sexy part of the job,” Elliott said.

He said there are multiple ways the county chooses to staff the position, and KVFR will be happy to help mentor that person, however they choose to do it.

“We see a lot of upsides to this model,” Elliott said.

The discussion to separate responsibilities began in-depth after County Fire Marshal Eric Trygstad left his position in July.

Elliott said out of the duties conducted by a county fire marshal — fire life safety and code — the fire marshal makes the most sense to separate out.

Myers said they are still putting final touches on the proposed job description.

“Certification teaches the science,” Myers said. “Experience teaches the art.”

County commissioners Cory Wright and Obie O’Brien had some concerns during discussions about separating the duty out of Community Development Services, but ultimately agreed moving forward with the plan that is best for the county.

“You put to rest a lot of concerns,” Wright said.

Myers said it increases preparedness and also benefits other entities and will continue to work with Community Development Services.

According to the proposal, the position would be a civilian, non-exempt union employee assigned to the Emergency Management Division, under the supervision of Darren Higashiyama.

Commissioner Laura Osiadacz said this is different than how the position has been in the past, where the fire marshal is essentially the head of the department.

She said it’s not out of the ordinary for these positions to be under law enforcement.

There will still need to be a public hearing before the commissioners can officially vote on the proposal.

Osciadacz said it is important to show the community this issue is a high priority and thinks separating the duties is a wise decision.


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