Incumbents retain seats in three fire districts

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

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Incumbents ruled Tuesday night in commissioner races for East County Fire & Rescue, Clark County Fire & Rescue and Amboy-based Fire District 10.

East County, which many just call ECFR for short, is a fire district where 18 paid employees and 50 volunteers work to protect about 10,100 people who live in 60 square miles of rural hills wrapped around Camas and Washougal.

This year, there was a bit of excitement in the race for three commissioner seats that for many years had only one candidate, the incumbent.

Suddenly this year, three mysterious challengers appeared on the horizon.

Longtime incumbents George “Jack” Hoober, John Clancy and Gary Larson were puzzled that the challengers had made no statements as far as why they were running or what they wanted to change.

Nor did the challengers criticize the incumbents’ many years of service.

There were no public meetings or debates and it basically was a war of yard signs, word of mouth and a website.

All three incumbents referred in the campaign pamphlet to a website, http://FComm.org, which they said they generally supported as representing their views. It was created by volunteer firefighters.

FComm’s writers made a number of allegations about the challengers, including that they wanted to “hijack” the board with officials “more agreeable to consolidation,” grab East County’s $1.6 million in tax revenues and use the money to save union jobs and balance Camas’s emergency medical service deficit.

The authors also claimed that the challengers wanted to do away with volunteers.

The challengers, Thomas Gianatasio, Brooks Cooper and Kenny Cochran, strongly denied wanting to do away with volunteers. It would cost a fortune to staff such a large area solely with paid firefighters, they said.

Gianatasio retired in 1999 as a captain with the San Jose, Calif., fire department.

Cooper is a captain with the Camas Fire Department. He’s been employed there for 22 years and was a volunteer five years before that.

Cochran is a longtime career firefighter with the Vancouver Fire Department.

In a Columbian story based on interviews with all six candidates leading up to Tuesday’s election, Cooper and Cochran said they’d like to consider consolidation; Gianatasio, a relative newcomer, said he didn’t know enough to comment.

Commissioners aren’t paid except for travel stipends of $75 per meeting.

Larson reclaimed his seat with 1,392 votes or 71.4 percent.

Clancy stayed on with 63.8 percent, 1,238 votes.

Hoober garnered 67 percent, 1,291votes.

In the Clark County Fire & Rescue race, incumbent Gerald “Jerry” Kolke won with 59.3 percent or 2,681 votes. Walter “Frank” Mazna was his challenger.

Incumbent Danny L. Walling stayed in the saddle on Fire District 10’s board with 68.4 percent or 895 votes. His challenger was Gerard Brintz.