July 11-- Jul. 11--Chehalis Fire Chief Ken Cardinale is set to add interim chief duties for Lewis County Fire District 6 to his workload.

Chehalis City Council and Fire District 6 Board of Commissioners voted this week to approve an interlocal agreement allowing for Cardinale to hold both roles until Fire District 6 hires a permanent chief to replace Tim Kinder, who resigned in April. They are expected to begin reviewing applications later this month.

Cardinale will receive special assignment pay of $4,593 per month via the City of Chehalis for taking on the additional responsibilities. Fire District 6 would pay one-third, or $5,189, of the total monthly cost of Cardinale's salary and benefits for the duration of the agreement, which has not yet been signed by both entities but will be retroactive to July 1. The agreement will terminate after six months, or when District 6 hires a permanent chief, but can be extended an additional six months.

"It's an opportunity where the city and the district are looking at annexing right now, so it's a chance to possibly facilitate that a little more," Cardinale said Wednesday. "District 6 has a great group of firefighters there and it's an honor to be able to work with them for however many months I'll be doing this. I hope to continue to strive to provide the current level of service the citizens are enjoying from the district and keep that going until they find a permanent chief."

Fire District 6 first approached Chehalis staff in April to inquire about sharing Cardinale, but were rebuffed due to the need for Cardinale to focus on city business at the time. Following an unsuccessful search for an interim chief, District 6 returned to the city to ask for a second time. Chehalis City Manager Jill Anderson said during a city council meeting Monday that District 6 having taken in the Chehalis Fire Department after its downtown fire station was deemed uninhabitable last year led city staff to want to return the favor. Cardinale said Wednesday that efforts undertaken the past few years to hold joint trainings and better integrate the two fire departments will help with the transition. A study to determine the feasibility of combining the two departments through annexation is ongoing.

"The more that they have been able to work together by training and now being housed together, they're pretty much operating now as one department," Cardinale said. "I think if this annexation doesn't go through, this whole process of being housed together, training together, because of the relationships being built, it will only improve the service for the long haul for both the city and the district. ... We've taken as many steps as we can now to operate as one department, but the last piece of the puzzle will have to be the financial aspect, and that is something the commissioners and the city council will have to determine."

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