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Commissioner Steve NeupertFebruary 16, 2024

Longtime Fire Commissioner and Retired Volunteer Firefighter Passes; Memorial Service Scheduled for March 2

Stephen “Steve” Edward Neupert, who lived his life in the service of others, died at his Jefferson Beach home near Kingston, Washington on February 8, 2024. He was 83.

Born on January 6, 1941 to Anthony “Tony” and Ruth (Hoffmann) Neupert in Seattle, he and his six siblings were raised in the city but spent many summer days on the more rural side of Puget Sound. Steve was a veteran of the U.S. Army, joining shortly after high school and attaining the rank of Sergeant Major (E9) before retiring. He graduated from Seattle University. Drawn by childhood memories, he purchased land in the newly platted Jefferson Beach Estates and built a cabin that would eventually become his permanent home.

He was a volunteer firefighter for over twenty-five years, serving with Kitsap County Fire District #5 (Jefferson Beach/Indianola) through its merger into Kitsap County Fire District #10 (Kingston) and evolution into North Kitsap Fire & Rescue (NKF&R) where he served as lieutenant and volunteer coordinator. He retired from firefighting when he was appointed to fill a vacancy on NKF&R’s Board of Commissioners in 2005 and was reelected to his third term last fall. He was a dedicated advocate for the interests of those served by NKF&R, learning all he could about the laws governing fire districts and quietly sharing his knowledge through his avid participation with fellow commissioners on the local, regional and state levels.

Steve was a well-known presence around town, having worked at Kingston Lumber for at least twenty years and was honored as Grand Marshal of the Kingston Fourth of July Parade. He was skilled at repairs as well as in new construction, taking pride in training new employees and teaching others how to fix something broken or build something new. These attributes also made him a valued volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Kitsap County where he lent more than his know-how. Steve assembled as many as ten carpentry kits, complete with power tools as well as hand tools, that he would lend to home recipients to use while they put in required volunteer hours. He had a deep love of trains; Steve was a longtime and active member of the National Model Railway Association, Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers and the Bremerton Model Railway Association. He helped to build the model railway display at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, applying his construction skills in miniature. His personal model train layout features Pope and Talbot’s logging railroads around the Olympic Peninsula.

A lifelong Roman Catholic, Steve quietly lived his faith through humble service. He was an usher at Saint Peter Catholic Mission in Suquamish and a consistent presence at the Saturday evening masses there.

His parents preceded him in death. He is survived by sister Madeleine Morrison of Mercer Island, sister Ann Neupert of Camano Island, sister Eileen (Gunnar) Hermansen of Westport, brother Anthony Neupert (Julee) of Bothell, sister Barbara Helen of Westport, brother David Neupert (Claudia) of Port Angeles, and six nieces and nephews. He is sorely missed by his family and friends as well as by the many people and organizations that benefitted from his abiding dedication, profound generosity and wry sense of humor.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Saint Olaf Catholic Church in Poulsbo on Saturday, March 2 at 11 a.m., followed by a reception in the parish hall. A private inurnment with military honors will be held at Kingston Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Steve’s memory to Habitat for Humanity of Kitsap County (P.O. Box 5347, Bremerton, WA 98312-5347) or the North Kitsap Community Partnership Fund (c/o NKF&R, 26642 Miller Bay Rd NE, Kingston, WA 98346).

 

February 9, 2024

Longtime Fire Commissioner Passes Away

(KINGSTON, Wash.) — It is with great sadness that North Kitsap Fire & Rescue (NKF&R) announces the passing of longtime fire commissioner and retired volunteer firefighter, Stephen E. Neupert.

Commissioner Neupert has been a valuable member of the NKF&R Board of Fire Commissioners since 2005 and has been very active in local, regional and state fire commissioners organizations. Prior to serving the community in this leadership role, he was a dedicated volunteer firefighter for over 25 years with the former Kitsap County Fire District #5 (Indianola/Jefferson Beach), Kitsap County Fire District #10 (Kingston) and NKF&R.

More information will be provided when it’s available.


February 6, 2024

North Kitsap Fire Chief achieves Executive Fire Officer designation

(KINGSTON, Wash.) – North Kitsap Fire & Rescue’s Board of Fire Commissioners is proud to announce that the district’s leader, Fire Chief Rick LaGrandeur, has earned the Executive Fire Officer (EFO) designation from the United States Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy (NFA).

National Fire Academy Superintendent Eriks Gabliks, left, presents a graduation certificate to North Kitsap Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Rick LaGrandeur, right, at December ceremonies.

LaGrandeur graduated from the intensive two-year program in December along with 23 other fire service leaders from across the country. NFA Superintendent Eriks Gabliks describes the EFO Program as “bringing together current and future fire service executives who learn various leadership principles that foster bold and imaginative public policy solutions to keep communities safe and make them more resilient.” Recognized at the graduate level, the EFO program combines several one to two week in-person courses at the NFA’s Emmitsburg, Maryland campus with mediated online classes and research projects.

The NKF&R Board of Commissioners honored LaGrandeur at their December 11 meeting, presenting him with a Pendleton blanket in a firefighter motif. Chairwoman Gillian Gregory said, “We commend Chief LaGrandeur on this notable achievement. His hard work and this accomplishment affirms a district culture of commitment to continual self-development and pursuit of performance at the highest levels.”

First joining North Kitsap Fire & Rescue (NKF&R) as a volunteer in 1992, LaGrandeur rose through the ranks to be appointed to the district’s top spot in February 2023. He is one of only 225 fire service professionals in Washington state to have earned the EFO designation. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Service Administration from Eastern Oregon University.

NKF&R serves the communities of Hansville, Little Boston, Kingston, Miller Bay, Indianola and Suquamish across a 51-square mile area. The district’s Board of Fire Commissioners meets on the second and fourth Mondays of every month at 7 p.m. in NKF&R’s headquarters fire station (26642 Miller Bay Road NE near Kingston) and online. In 2023, the district’s expense budget was about $13 million and crews responded to 3,726 calls. About two-thirds of these incidents were for emergency medical services.


The older manufactured home was well-involved in flames as NKF&R firefighters arrived at the scene of the fire near Indianola early Monday morning.

January 22, 2024

Manufactured home burns near Indianola

(INDIANOLA, Wash.) – An older manufactured home and a camper – both thought to have been unoccupied — were severely damaged by fire near here early Monday morning but crews were able to keep the flames from spreading further despite limited water supplies. There were no known injuries to firefighters or civilians.

A North Kitsap Fire & Rescue (NKF&R) crew was initially dispatched just after 5 a.m. to an unknown-type fire in a neighborhood off of Orca Drive after a 911 caller reported seeing flames through the trees. While the original unit was still en route, further information led dispatchers to upgrade the incident to a residential structure fire response. Additional units from Poulsbo Fire Department as well as from NKF&R were called to the scene. The first crew arrived 11 minutes after dispatch and reported the 800 SF doublewide mobile home well-involved in fire. With the closest hydrant more than a half-mile away, water to fight the fire had to be supplied by water tender trucks and the blaze was under control about 30 minutes later. It took another couple of hours to fully extinguish remaining hot spots.

An investigator from the Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s Office responded to the scene and spent several hours examining the evidence and talking to bystanders. However, due in part to the extent of damage to the structure, the fire’s cause is classified as undetermined.


December 2, 2023

In this photo taken by the homeowner, smoke billows out of a Driftwood Key house as NKF&R’s Firefighter Russell Fergus (left) and Lieutenant Craig Barnard (right) apply water from a safe position outside to effectively keep the fire in check while they await arrival of the additional forces. Washington state law and national safety standards prohibit firefighters from entering a burning structure unless there are additional firefighters outside or there is a confirmed need for immediate rescue of person(s) trapped inside.

Electrical fire at Driftwood Key home
Early reporting, fast response prevent more serious damage

(HANSVILLE, Wash.) – Damage from a Thursday morning fire at a Driftwood Key house was limited because the homeowner quickly called 911 after discovering smoke in his kitchen, drawing a rapid and decisive response from firefighters. The blaze, which was likely sparked by an electrical problem in the home’s crawlspace, resulted in no injuries to firefighters or civilians.  The owners are insured.

North Kitsap Fire & Rescue (NKF&R) crews were dispatched to Canal Lane shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday for a report of smoke from an unknown source inside the 2,100 SF, two-story home.  The first unit on scene arrived from NKF&R’s Hansville station in just over 6 minutes after dispatch. Firefighters reported heavy smoke and upgraded the incident to a structure fire response, drawing additional units from Poulsbo Fire Department and Bainbridge Island Fire Department as well as from NKF&R’s other stations. While awaiting arrival of additional resources, the first crew on scene was able to slow the fire’s progress by getting water on it from a safe position at one of the home’s exterior doorways. Using less than 100 gallons of water, firefighters had the flames out within ten minutes of arrival.  Out-of-district resources were returned to their stations and investigators from the Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s Office were called to the scene.

Based on witness statements and evidence at the scene, investigators believe that the incident started with an electrical anomaly of undetermined origin that caused a fire to smolder in the crawlspace under the home’s kitchen for several days before growing into more active flames on Thursday morning. Although fire damage was limited to a small area in the kitchen and crawlspace, smoke affected the entire structure and water from extinguishing efforts impacted the portions of the home’s first floor.

Fire officials say it was fortunate that the fire occurred in the daytime rather than at night when detection and reporting might have been much slower. In the event of a fire, an adequate number of working smoke alarms are key – especially at night when occupants are sleeping – to protecting lives and property. Alarms should be hard-wired with battery back-up and interconnected so all alarms sound when activated.  There should be at least one alarm per level of the home, at least one outside sleeping areas and one inside every bedroom. Also key to limiting spread are closed doors which deprive a fire of the air it needs to grow. The last occupant to leave can help slow fire growth by closing doors behind them as they evacuate a burning building.


October 16, 2023

The smoke column from a Sunday morning fire in North Kitsap was visible from as far away as Edmonds.

Home business destroyed in Sunday morning fire

(POULSBO, Wash.) – An outbuilding, housing a screen-printing business, suffered significant damage in a fire between here and Kingston on Sunday morning. There was no damage to the property’s nearby principal residence and no injuries to firefighters or civilians. Though an exact cause of the blaze has not yet been determined, investigators believe it was accidental.

Firefighters from Bainbridge Island Fire Department, North Kitsap Fire & Rescue and Poulsbo Fire Department were called to an address on Port Gamble Road at 10:10 a.m. for a reported fire in a business. The first units arrived on scene within seven minutes of dispatch and found smoke coming from the 1,500 SF metal pole barn building, up a steep driveway and about 40 yards away from the closest nearby building — property owner’s home. With no nearby hydrants available, crews used water from the fire engines’ tanks to fight the blaze until the arrival of water tender trucks.  Port Gamble Road was closed in both directions near its intersection with Gunderson Road while crews worked; traffic on Gunderson was also delayed during the operation. Firefighters had the blaze under control within ten minutes of their arrival but spent an additional 90 minutes extinguishing hot spots within the densely-packed materials that had been stored inside the building.

An investigator from the Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s Office responded to the scene.  The property owner told officials that he’d awakened to find light smoke coming from the outbuilding and went to locate its source. He opened the building’s door and, upon finding smoke and flames inside, called 911 to report the fire. It is unknown how long the fire had been burning; the man said he hadn’t been inside the building since early Friday. The investigator remained at the scene for several more hours in an effort to find the fire’s cause. While confident that the fire was an accident, the investigator has not yet determined how it started.

Officials ask the public to remember to close doors after discovering a fire in a structure – if it’s safe to do so. Closing doors can deprive a fire of the air it needs, slowing its growth. Learn about the importance of closed doors in this January 11, 2022 article in the New York Times.

Much of the building and its contents were destroyed but firefighters were able to stop the fire before it spread to the farthest one-third of the structure, saving the valuable contents stored there.

The business is insured.


July 18, 2023

Cigarette Sparks Brush Fire
Fire Danger Very High in Kitsap County

(KINGSTON, Wash.) – A grass fire that scorched over a half-acre of grass at a home here was likely sparked with a cigarette discarded in a fire pit, and officials note that the speed of the fire’s spread clearly demonstrates the kinds of conditions that led the Kitsap County Fire Marshal to ban nearly all outdoor fires, effective July 12.

North Kitsap Fire & Rescue crews were called to a Barber Cut Off Road address just before 3 p.m. on Monday. The fire was not readily visible from the road but a neighbor, out walking dogs, happened to see flames at the property and called 911.  The first unit arrived on scene less than five minutes after dispatch to find the fire’s speed had slowed to a smolder. Firefighters spent another 90 minutes in mop-up (the process of ensuring that no hot spots remain that could otherwise reignite).

An occupant at the property told officials that a lit cigarette was discarded in a fire pit shortly before the incident, and it appears that the fire began in that general area.

On July 12 and due to increasing fire danger, the Kitsap County Fire Marshal increased limits on outdoor burning with a Stage II ban.  Under a Stage II ban, all outdoor burning is prohibited expect for fires in contained barbecue units. As many as 90% of all wildland fires are caused by humans, and the public is urged to avoid potential ignition sources under the current dangerous conditions.

There were no property losses or injuries in yesterday’s incident.


A hillside burns through thick blackberry bushes toward a home at the top of a bluff.

July 6, 2023

Brush Fire Threatens Homes Near Kingston
Vegetation Scorched But Firefighters’ Work Prevents Property Damage

(KINGSTON, Wash.) — Over one-third of an acre was scorched and at least three structures were threatened by a brush fire in Kingston’s Jefferson Beach neighborhood early Thursday morning but thanks to firefighters’ decisive response, there was no property loss and no injuries to firefighters or civilians. Jefferson Beach is about 3 miles south of Kingston. The fire’s exact cause is undetermined but likely related to fireworks use over the past few days at the neighborhood’s community beach.

North Kitsap Fire & Rescue (NKF&R) crews responded at 12:47 a.m. after someone in Shoreline called the fire station to report a fire visible from across Puget Sound. As firefighters attempted to locate the blaze, several locals called 911 to report seeing fire in the vicinity of the community’s dock and beach access. The first units on scene described flames 3-4’ in height, moving at a moderate rate through grass and brambles across a half-acre area on a very steep hillside and tall bluff. The fire was within several feet of one structure and threatening two more, spurring evacuations of those residences and a call for additional firefighting resources. Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded quickly to assist with evacuations (as it turned out, the homes were unoccupied) and crews from Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island Fire Departments joined the firefight.

Despite challenging terrain and thick vegetation, firefighters had the fire’s forward progress stopped within twenty minutes of arrival and it was under control in just over an hour. They spent an additional two hours creating fire breaks and applying water to hot spots.

The fire appears to have started with a debris pile, composed mostly of spent fireworks, on the bulkhead area near the community dock. The pile was burning upon firefighters’ arrival, and the fire seemed to have spread out and up from that point.


July 5, 2023

Fourth of July Around North Kitsap

(KINGSTON, Wash.) – North Kitsap Fire & Rescue (NKF&R) crews were busy over the holiday and there were several fireworks-related injuries and fires, but the number of incidents totaled less than expected despite the region’s high temperatures and fire danger; NKF&R firefighters responded to 16 calls between 12:01 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. on July 4 – less than twice the district’s 2023 average of 9.7 incidents per day.

The two most notable incidents occurred late Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning. NKF&R crews were called to Suquamish just before midnight after a 23 year-old man was struck in the face by a mortar that exploded at close range. A medical transport helicopter was called to take the man to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. As of this morning, he remains in the hospital. Just after 1 a.m., NKF&R firefighters were dispatched to a reported structure fire off Orca Drive near Indianola. A Suquamish Police Department officer and a Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office deputy were first on scene and slowed the fire with extinguishers. Firefighters arrived to find a dumpster ablaze with flames spreading to an approximately 500 SF concession and restroom facility at the Indianola Ball Field. Crews quickly snuffed the fire, preventing damage from affecting most of the building’s interior spaces. Investigators from the Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s Office came to the scene and, based on witness statements and physical evidence, determined that the fire was likely an accident that started with improper disposal of spent fireworks. There had been significant fireworks activity throughout the evening near the ball field. Because fireworks debris can retain heat, officials recommend soaking the devices in water prior to placing in the trash. Apparently, this step was missed and flames from the burning debris spread easily to the structure because the dumpster was situated directly adjacent to it. For this reason, fire codes require dumpsters to be at least five feet away from buildings.

Other incidents included a small blaze that spread from a recreational fire at a private residence near Arness Park to char 100 SF of driftwood early Tuesday morning and two small fireworks-sparked brush fires on Marine View Drive and Arklow Place that were successfully squelched by bystanders on Tuesday evening. Monday evening, a utility trailer in a Suquamish home’s yard was consumed by a fire. That incident’s cause remains undetermined, but neighbors described abundant fireworks activity in the area. A Sunday afternoon fire scorched five mature arborvitae and a section of wooden fence. Spent bottle rockets were found near the fire’s origin.


June 18, 2023

A dishwasher is thought to have been the origin of this fire that destroyed a kitchen in a Suquamish rental home on Sunday afternoon.

Two NK Homes Damaged in Appliance-Related Fires

(NORTH KITSAP, Wash.) — Two North Kitsap homes were damaged in appliance-related fires Sunday. Though neither incident caused injuries to firefighters or civilians, officials are cautioning the public about the fire danger posed by dishwashers and clothes dryers.

North Kitsap Fire & Rescue (NKF&R), Poulsbo Fire Department and Bainbridge Island Fire Department crews were called to a three-story home off of SR 305 near Laura Loop just before 4:30 p.m. One of the rental house’s two occupants had returned from work to find smoke alarms sounding and heavy smoke in the residence, sparking her call to 911. A crew from NKF&R’s Suquamish station was first on scene, arriving about 8 minutes after dispatch. They reported heavy smoke and high heat but no active fire on the home’s main level.  The heaviest fire damage was in the kitchen, and firefighters cooled hotspots with water supplied by tender trucks.  The upper level was also impacted by smoke and heat; water damage affected both the main and the lower levels.  Firefighters rescued a turtle that was on the lower level at the time of the fire.

Investigators from the Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s Office (KCFMO) responded to determine the fire’s cause. The occupant told officials that she’d started the dishwasher before heading back to work after lunch. Based on this and the physical evidence at the scene, investigators believe that the fire started in the dishwasher, spreading from there. The property is insured and the tenants have renters’ insurance.

The dryer was the likely origin of a fire that heavily damaged a Kingston home on Sunday evening.

Just over an hour later at 5:45 p.m., firefighters were dispatched to a two-story home off of Rash Road near Kingston for a dryer fire. When investigating an unusual smell coming from behind the laundry room’s closed door, one of the two occupants found heavy smoke and called 911.  As crews made their way to the scene, the caller reported growing flames spreading from the dryer; she and her daughter evacuated as the home’s smoke alarms activated.  The family’s cat and dog also safely escaped. Two other family members were away. Firefighters arrived at the house in just over 7 minutes after dispatch, finding heavy fire coming from the direction of the laundry room toward the front door. They were able to quickly knock down the fire but the flames had already done serious damage to the laundry room and adjacent spaces. Heat and smoke damage extended to the house’s second floor, too

The occupant said that she’d run the dryer with towels and a mattress protector about an hour earlier but that it wasn’t running and its door was ajar at the time of the fire. KCFMO investigators say that witness statements and physical evidence point to the dryer as the likely origin of the fire. The family is insured.

As illustrated by today’s incidents, appliances – especially heat-producers such as dishwashers and clothes dryers — can be dangerous. For this reason, officials recommend against running them while sleeping or away from home. Firefighters also emphasize the importance of working smoke alarms and, when fire does break out, closing doors to slow the fire’s spread.


March 30, 2023

A firefighter in breathing apparatus and bunker gear swiftly approaches a 5th wheel recreational vehicle. Fire hose is visible on the ground, and smoke and flames are coming from the far end of the trailer.

Couple displaced, two dogs rescued following destructive trailer fire

(KINGSTON, Wash.) — A couple has lost two of their pets, their 5th wheel trailer and many of their possessions in a fire that broke out on Thursday afternoon. The cause of the fire is thought to be accidental. There were no injuries to firefighters or civilians in the blaze. Two dogs were found and removed by firefighters and are receiving care from local veterinary clinics. An additional two dogs were found deceased inside the trailer.

North Kitsap Fire & Rescue (NKF&R) crews were called to the area of Miller Bay Road and West Kingston Road a for a possible vehicle fire reported by a passerby. While enroute, crews requested additional resources due to reports that a large RV was involved. The first firefighters arrived in just under 4 minutes, and reported flames visible from a 43-foot 5th wheel trailer possibly threatening other structures. More crews were requested to respond, including units from Poulsbo Fire Department and Bainbridge Island Fire Department.

A bystander on scene reported to crews that he believed at least three dogs were located in the burningThree firefighters surround a large boxer-type dog wearing a special oxygen mask, designed for use with pets.  trailer. Crews conducted an aggressive interior fire attack and prioritized a rapid search of the trailer. Crews were met with zero visibility conditions upon entry as smoke filled the interior rooms of the trailer. Two large dogs were located by search crews and removed from the trailer to the driveway where lifesaving measures were initiated. Crews from Poulsbo Fire Department took over treatment with the assistance of NKF&R’s Medical Services Officer. After receiving treatment including oxygen and CPR, they were transported to Apple Tree Cove Animal Hospital for further treatment and are currently in stable condition. Crews were able to use specialized medical equipment designed for animal emergencies donated to NKF&R by Invisible Fence through their “Project Breathe” program. With no fire hydrants nearby, crews used water tender trucks to deliver water supply for the firefight. Law enforcement officers assisted with traffic control on Miller Bay Road due to the large presence of emergency vehicles.

Although the fire was brought under control quickly, firefighters spent several hours thoroughly checking for any other hot spots and removing salvageable belongings. Tragically, two additional dogs were found deceased near the origin of the fire. Officials say that the construction of camper trailers leads them to burn fast and hot, frequently resulting in complete destruction when fire strikes. Traffic on Miller Bay Road was limited to one lane of travel between West Kingston Road and Heritage Park for about 30 minutes while crews fought the fire.

The trailer’s owner, an adult male, told officials that he noticed a brief flickering light before leaving the trailer to run an errand about thirty minutes prior to the incident. He received a phone call from the property owner advising of the fire and returned to the scene. The 5th wheel trailer and its contents were not insured. NKF&R firefighters contacted the Red Cross and local animal charities who are providing assistance to the couple.

Two investigators from the Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s Office responded to the incident. Based on witness statements and evidence at the scene, they say that the fire likely started from a faulty outlet.


January 3, 2023

Local Fire Service Veteran Selected as North Kitsap Fire & Rescue’s Next Leader
Assistant Chief Rick LaGrandeur to Take District’s Helm After Dan Smith’s Retirement

(KINGSTON, Wash.) — The Board of Fire Commissioners for North Kitsap Fire & Rescue (NKF&R) has announced their selection of a successor to retiring Fire Chief Dan Smith.  Assistant Chief Rick LaGrandeur, a 29-year veteran who has risen through NKF&R’s ranks from volunteer-resident through his current role as operations chief, will assume the district’s top spot when the current fire chief, Dan Smith, retires on February 4, 2023.

Smith has served as NKF&R’s fire chief since 2008.  He started as a volunteer with Kingston Ambulance in 1981 and joined Kitsap County Fire District #10 (now known as NKF&R) as Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Captain in 1983.  In 1984, he applied his well-known capacity for creativity and innovation to bring paramedic service to the communities that now comprise NKF&R. Like LaGrandeur, Smith also worked his way through the ranks during his 42-year tenure. During that time, he has led the district as it has successfully evolved to meet changing conditions and increasing demand for service. Smith has earned the respect of fire service professionals across the county, state and nation as a champion for cooperation between agencies, and was chosen by his peers to be Washington’s Fire Chief of the Year in 2016. “NKF&R has been fortunate to have had leaders like Chief Smith who’ve worked so hard to build and maintain a culture of service and excellence,” says Gregory. “We’ll miss him, but he has helped ensure that we’re in very good shape to meet the challenges of the next decade.” Known for his long working hours and commitment to the profession, Smith is looking forward to the more relaxed schedule that will come with retirement and looks forward to spending time with his family.

Shortly after Smith announced his retirement in early 2022, a subcommittee of NKF&R’s five-member governing body began designing the process to select the district’s next chief executive officer. The district’s commissioners, elected at large to staggered six-year terms, serve as representatives of the community.  Their responsibilities also include fiscal oversight as well as the selection and supervision of the fire chief.  NKF&R Commissioners Gillian Gregory and John Huntington headed the subcommittee.  At the conclusion of the process which included two internal candidates, the board voted unanimously to appoint LaGrandeur to the position. Gregory observes that he embodies the district’s long-held values of quality, efficiency, fiscal accountability and innovation. She adds, “We look forward to his leadership of this exemplary fire service team.”

LaGrandeur joined NKF&R’s volunteer-resident training program following his graduation from North Kitsap High School and was subsequently hired as a paid firefighter in 1994. He promoted to lieutenant in 2000, shift battalion chief in 2008 and served for eight years as a representative for the NKF&R bargaining units of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 2819. He became the district’s second-in-command as Assistant Chief for Operations in 2015.  He holds an Associate’s Degree in Fire Command Administration from Olympic College, a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Service Administration from Eastern Oregon University and will complete the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program in 2023. “What Chief Smith has done for our fire district is remarkable,” notes LaGrandeur, adding that Smith leaves some big shoes to fill. “To be selected as our next fire chief is both humbling and a tremendous honor; I am excited to take on the challenge.” LaGrandeur and wife RaeNell, a teacher in the Central Kitsap School District, have two adult children and three grandchildren. On the rare occasions that LaGrandeur has spare time, he spends it with his family. He also enjoys soccer and golf.

Smith’s career will be honored and LaGrandeur’s promotion celebrated in ceremonies starting at 5 p.m.on February 4 at the Clearwater Casino Resort Event Center.

NKF&R serves the communities of Hansville, Kingston, Miller Bay, Indianola and Suquamish across a 46-square mile area.  The district’s Board of Fire Commissioners meets on the second and fourth Mondays of every month at 7 p.m. in NKF&R’s headquarters fire station (26642 Miller Bay Road NE near Kingston) and online.  NKF&R’s 2021 expense budget was $10.2 million. In 2021, crews responded to 3,360 incidents from four staffed fire stations.  About two-thirds of all calls were for emergency medical services.