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CRF&R apoints Eric Smythe as interim chief; Jeff Pricher continues as interim chief for SRFPD

PMG FILE PHOTOS - Eric Smythe (left) has been hired as interim chief for Columbia River Fire & Rescue, while Jeff Pricher will continue as interim chief for Scappoose Rural Fire District.

Columbia River Fire & Rescue has appointed Eric Smythe as the district's interim fire chief.

The board approved the appointment at a meeting last month, just days before the district would have been left without a chief.

CRF&R shared a fire chief with Scappoose Rural Fire Protection District under an intergovernmental agreement, but that agreement was terminated earlier this year.

Smythe was hired by CRF&R in January 2014 as its chief for training, emergency medical services and safety. He was named Division Chief of Operations for both districts in 2016 under the districts' IGA.

The process to hire a permanent fire chief for CRF&R is expected to take months. Jeff Pricher was previously appointed interim chief for both districts following the resignation of former Chief Dennis Hoke, but as of July 1, Pricher is the interim chief for just SRFD. He will continue in that position through the fall.

Pricher has served as Fire Marshal Division Chief for both districts, held various other division chief roles since joining the Scappoose Fire District in 2012, and also took on CRF&R responsibilities when the intergovernmental agreement was formed.

Hoke, the previous chief of the two fire districts, resigned following a tumultuous few months for the two districts that culminated with the vote to terminate the intergovernmental agreement.

A resignation agreement signed by Hoke and Scappoose Rural Fire District Board President Dave Graham dated May 6 stated the Hoke was resigning voluntarily due to family reasons. The resignation was effective July 1, but Hoke would be on vacation from June 11 through June 30, the agreement states.

Scappoose Rural Fire Protection District and Columbia River Fire & Rescue operate in different areas (CRF&R covers St. Helens and surrounding areas), but shared administration under the IGA.

The districts previously planned to eventually merge into one fire authority, but that complicated process requires time to ensure that neither district would lose resources to the other.

The vote to terminate the IGA came at a joint board meeting in March, though the agreement remained in effect through June 30.

Hoke served as chief for less than a year. He replaced Mike Greisen, who announced his retirement in 2019 following three decades with the fire district.

"In preparation for the transition, the District has been reaching out to career staff, district volunteers and former staff members with specific skill sets, such as Fire Inspector, that the District can utilize as it prepares to move forward," a CRF&R press release stated. "It has been quite humbling to see the willingness of so many people to help our District through this important transition and to make sure the needs of our community are always met."

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