After considering a field of 26 applicants from across the country, Vashon Island Fire & Rescue (VIFR) has now hired two new division chiefs — both with a wealth of experience close to home.
The new chiefs, Scot McDonald and Ben Davidson, are now three weeks into their new jobs, working under the direction of Fire Chief Matt Vinci.
The new leadership staffing structure, approved earlier this year as part of VIFR’s arching new strategic plan, is intended to “…improve the span of control for all supervisors in the organization, better distribute the workload of the district, and provide redundancy and enhanced succession planning in the system at the chief officer level.”
The new positions at VIFR will replace the district’s former leadership configuration, which included the roles of one assistant chief and one battalion chief of training and safety.
In an interview, Vinci, Davidson and McDonald said that the new leadership structure is better designed to work in tandem and create a chain of command that is more immediately responsive to the needs of the community and the district.
McDonald, VIFR’s new Division Chief of Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Operations, previously had served with South King County Fire & Rescue for 25 years. His last appointment was as EMS Training Captain under South King County Fire Training Consortium, a division that represents 14 fire departments in King County.
At VIFR, he will oversee shift staffing, support, officer development, emergency management, and fleet management.
He’ll also be responsible for spearheading the district’s participation in Mobile Integrated Health — a county-wide program already funded by King County’s EMS Levy, that will enable VIFR to provide additional resources, including home visits, for high-need patients on Vashon.
Davidson, a longtime career firefighter, captain, and union leader on Vashon, is now the district’s Division Chief of Training and Support Services. He’ll oversee VIFR’s management of special projects, training, fire prevention and community risk reduction programs, and also have responsibility for managing facilities and planning.
Chief Vinci said that McDonald and Davidson had risen to the top of the field of candidates in a process that included multiple interviews with outside fire chiefs, commissioners, and volunteers.
He cited Davidson’s experience honed as a captain and union leader in the district, while praising McDonald’s depth of knowledge, gained in his work with South King County’s Consortium.
McDonald said he had become interested in the job for two reasons. The first, he said, was Vashon’s fire chief.
“I came here to be mentored by him,” he said. “Everybody I’ve talked to had nothing but great things to say, and that intrigued me.”
The second reason, he said, was that he was eager to step into a position that would help him become a mentor to others. He explained that at age 52, after a long career in fire service, “it’s kind of my turn to give back, and stepping into this position allows me to take that succession.”
Davidson, at age 49, was also eager to take his years of experience, as a fire captain, to the next level. But he said his interest in the job also sprang from something deeper: “a history of dedication to VIFR, its people, and our island community.”
Vashon has a new fire commissioner: islander Jim Whitney was chosen to join the board after an interview at a special meeting on April 20. He now fills the seat of John Simonds, who was elected as commissioner in 2021. Simonds, who during his time in office championed increased staffing in the district, died suddenly in March.
Whitney is an experienced fire/emergency medical services (EMS) professional with experience in tactical, operational, and administrative leadership. He is currently the Battalion Chief of Medical Services Administration for the City of Redmond Fire Department and Northeast King County Medic One.
Whitney is no stranger to operations at VIFR, having served as Battalion Chief of Training and Safety for the district from 1990 to 2006. On Vashon, he also worked for many years as a project manager and estimator for Mitchell Construction, and as a project manager for Kimmco, Inc. Construction.
Correction: The May 18 print edition of The Beachcomber and an earlier online version of this article mistakenly stated that Scot McDonald had worked for 14 different departments during his career in fire service. He has worked for one department, South King County Fire & Rescue, for 25 years. His last appointment was as EMS Training Captain under South King County Fire Training Consortium, a division that represents 14 fire departments in King County. We strive for accuracy and regret the error.