Clackamas Fire chief hired at troubled Hillsboro department
Fred Charlton, who was the chief of the Clackamas Fire District until his May 1 retirement, is Hillsboro Fire's new division chief of training.
Charlton's new position in Hillsboro is one subject of a retaliation and discrimination complaint against the city and two other top Hillsboro Fire officials by two current employees, who had applied for the role but weren't hired, according to the complaint.
Clackamas Fire's leadership was criticized for its handling of the Riverside Fire last September, which burned nearly 150,000 acres in the Clackamas River basin and came within a half-mile of Estacada's commercial core.
Residents took issue with the decision by department officials to take what's called a "tactical pause," pulling out firefighting resources from the area because the fire was too dangerous while flames burned homes.
In October, Charlton publicly apologized for the performance of his department during a virtual meeting with Estacada residents.
Hillsboro Fire & Rescue recently fully staffed its leadership team for the first time in months by hiring Charlton and Greg Espinosa, a former captain with Portland Fire & Rescue, now Hillsboro Fire's new deputy chief of operations.
In Charlton's new role, he leads the department's education and training programs that encompass firefighting, rescue and emergency medical services.
Hillsboro officials said Charlton seeks to find efficiencies and continue to innovate for training delivery, use of technology, and staying focused on the needs of employees and the community he serves.
They added he looks forward to supporting the department in its growth and development of plans, including professional development and succession planning.
Using a data-driven approach, Charlton will review response data to determine the frequency and types of incidents to evaluate risks and outcomes, officials said.
"I want to support Hillsboro Fire & Rescue and the city of Hillsboro to the best of my ability using years of experience to support the great work already being done," said Charlton, who began with the department on May 3.
Charlton's 32-year career began as a volunteer firefighter from 1989 until 1994 when he was hired as a professional firefighter/paramedic with the Milwaukie Fire Department.
The department eventually merged into the Clackamas Fire District, where Charlton has served most of his career.
He was promoted from firefighter to lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, deputy chief, and fire chief until his retirement in April 2021.
During his tenure, he received a meritorious service award in 2020 and a department leadership award in 2018, officials said.
Outside of the department, Charlton gave his time to the Oregon Fire Chiefs Association serving as president since 2019, as a member of the NW Fire Diversity Council since 2016, and as a Rotarian with Rotary Club of Clackamas since 2013.
He has taught as an adjunct instructor since 2010 with Eastern Oregon University and as an intermittent instructor with the Northwest Association of Fire Trainers, officials said.
Charlton has received a Chief Fire Officer designation from the Center for Public Safety Excellence, an Executive Masters of Public Administration, and bachelor's and associate's degrees, officials said.
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