Camas picks South Dakota man to lead fire department

Dominick Swinhart will start July 5

By Heather Acheson, Columbian staff writer

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The current chief of the Watertown, S.D. Fire Department has been selected to become the new leader of the Camas Fire Department.

Dominick J. Swinhart was chosen from a pool of five top candidates who went through an in-person interview process in Camas last week, The field was narrowed to two by May 5 when Mayor Paul Dennis and Mayor Pro-Tem Scott Higgins interviewed Swinhart and Clark County Fire District 3 Deputy Chief Scott Sorenson.

According to a press release issued Friday afternoon, Swinhart and his family will be moving to Camas and he will begin his work as chief on July 5. He will be paid $8,738 per month, plus benefits.

In a phone interview today, Higgins said he expects Swinhart to take the department in a positive direction.

“He is going to bring a great deal of energy to the fire department,” Higgins said. “He’s a really impressive guy.”

Since March 2009 Swinhart has led the 30-person unionized Watertown Fire Department, which serves a population of 25,000 by providing fire fighting, advanced life support ambulance, hazmat, and confined space and high angle rescue services.

Prior to that, he worked for the Aberdeen Fire Department in Aberdeen, Wash., from 1994 to 2009, during which time he served as a paramedic, firefighter, acting captain and was part of its arson investigation team. He has also worked in emergency services for the Raymond, Wash., fire department, Thurston County Fire District 9 in Olympia, Wash., and the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

Swinhart earned an associate’s degree in emergency medical services in 1992 from Tacoma Community College, and a bachelor’s degree in EMS management from George Washington University in Washington D.C. in 2008. He has also taken part in the National fire Academy Executive Fire Officer program.

He is the current president of the South Dakota Fire Chiefs Association, and he also served as a member of the Montesano [Wash.] City Council from 2007 to 2009, during which time he led consolidation discussions involving eight fire departments.

Other candidates interviewed last week include David Nelson, fire chief of the South Lane County Fire District in Cottage Grove, Ore.; Sam Phillips, deputy chief for the Hillsboro Fire Department in Hillsboro, Ore.; and Dan Stolinski, assistant chief with the Omaha Fire Department in Omaha, Neb.

The interview process, held May 3 and 4, included a community open house event, two panel interviews, city tours, lunch with members of the fire department and dinner with City Council.

A total of 80 applications were received for the open position.

Former Chief Leo Leon was fired in January. Since then Monte Brachmann, who retired in March 2010 as the Camas public works director, has been serving as the interim chief at a salary of approximately $9,000 per month.

Additional details on this breaking news story will be published in the May 17 print edition of the Post-Record.