Photo courtesy of Northshore Fire Department Facebook

Photo courtesy of Northshore Fire Department Facebook

Northshore fire chief retires early, others express interest in merger

Things are up in air after early departure.

In mid May, Northshore fire chief Jim Torpin and the board of fire commissioners entered into a “mutually beneficial” severance agreement that gives way to an early retirement, according to department officials.

Deputy chief Eric Magnuson said while Torpin was past the minimum retirement age, he had previously vocalized a plan to stay longer. No further reason was given for his early departure, but Magnuson hinted that there were some “interpersonal things between the commissioners and (Torpin).”

For more than 26 years, Torpin served the communities of Kenmore and Lake Forest Park. He began as a firefighter in 1993, according to a release from the department. His last day will be May 31.

Now that Torpin is leaving, Magnuson said things remain up in the air and that “anything’s a possibility.”

Ground-level talks on a fire service consolidation with Shoreline and Woodinville fire departments have rebooted and ground troops are excited about pushing the fire departments together.

At a recent Northshore Fire commissioner meeting, multiple parties spoke in favor of moving toward a merge. The three union presidents of Northshore, Shoreline and Woodinville fire departments stood before the board and asked them to explore a consolidation.

“The labor group firmly believes that consolidation will create operation efficiencies through standardized practices and better utilization of resources and personnel, which all translate to an increased level of service for our citizens,” said Anders Hansson, president of Northshore’s union IAFF Local 2459.

He added that the labor leaders, united in their message, are committed to making the merger work and understood it would take considerable change to make the combining of departments functional. They are committed to resolve any labor issues that arise and offered their assurances that no labor issues would derail or impede the process.

The local trend in fire service has leaned toward consolidation. In Snohomish County, Fire District 1’s merger with Lynnwood Fire Department was approved. Fire District 7 just combined with Lake Stevens Fire. And Eastside Fire and Rescue attempted to combine with Fall City.

Legal counsel is preparing a memo outlining a recommendation for next steps. Deputy chief Magnuson, in the role as acting chief, will remain in this position until the board has had time to decide future steps. Future action will be the topic of a June 4 meeting.

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