The island’s new fire chief is swapping an Oregon island for San Juan.
Norvin Collins, who is the current fire chief on Sauvie Island, was selected as the San Juan Island Fire and Rescue chief in a unanimous vote on Tuesday, Sept. 18.
Sauvie Island is about 30 minutes north of Portland and accessible by bridge. The island is roughly 20 square miles smaller than San Juan, with a vibrant tourism industry.
“It is very similar to San Juan,” said Collins. “My wife and I fell in love with [this] island. It’ll be a great place to call home.”
Collins will replace current San Juan Island Fire Chief Brad Creesy, who will retire in October after serving over 35 years with the department. The exact date when Collins will start has not been determined.
“I think Norvin is the best applicant we could possibly find,” said San Juan Island Fire and Rescue Commissioner Bob Jarman. “I believe he’ll make a good fit for this community and as well as this department.”
Commissioners mailed Collins a letter, offering the job on the condition that he passes a physical and signs a contract with the district. He was not present at the Sept. 18 meeting.
The community met the five candidates for fire chief at a public reception on Sept. 16, and the board and three committees interviewed them the next day.
The other candidates were Timothy Lemon, the fire chief for Chelan County Fire Protection District 7; Noel Monin, the assistant fire chief on San Juan; Terrence “Terry” Ney, the fire chief for Lane Fire Authority in Oregon; and Curtis Wallace, the assistant fire chief of Savannah Fire and Emergency Services in Georgia.
San Juan Island Fire and Rescue, also known as San Juan County Fire District 3, includes about 50 volunteer firefighters and seven paid staff. Collins was offered a $120,000 annual salary.
Collins said he was the first paid chief at Sauvie Island Fire District, which he added is a predominantly volunteer-run organization. He has also served with Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue in Tigard, Oregon from 1994-2013 and was a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for Lane Rural Fire District 1 in Oregon.
Collins and his wife, whom he met in high school, are looking forward to hiking, kayaking and paddleboarding on the island, as well as becoming immersed in the community. Both his wife and 20-year-old daughter volunteer at his current department, and, as a result, his daughter is attending paramedics school.
Collins has a bachelor’s degree in fire service administration from Eastern Oregon University and a master’s degree in psychology from Capella University. He is also a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer program.
“I think it’s exciting and a great opportunity,” said Collins. “Every interaction I’ve had with the department … has been extremely positive. Everyone seems so nice.”
The fire district covers Brown Island, Pearl Island and all of San Juan Island, except Friday Harbor. The town receives fire services through a contract with the district.
The commissioners from the fire district and San Juan County Public Hospital District 1 have been discussing possibly absorbing EMS into the fire district, though no decision has been made. Currently, EMS is under the hospital district.
Whatever the future of the district holds, Jarman said Collins is the right person to lead the way.
“I think that he will be able to move this department in a positive direction,” said Jarman. “I believe we can be able to train and provide opportunities for our volunteers as well as our career personnel that will be very beneficial. I think it’s a perfect choice.”