News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Scio Fire District welcomes new chief

Scio Fire DistrictThe Scio Fire District has a new fire chief who is hoping to lead the agency in a positive direction following the abrupt resignation of former Chief Levi Eckhardt in January.

The district welcomed Chief Kyle White on June 12 after a six-month search for a new head firefighter conducted by the district’s board of directors.

White retired earlier this year from a 29-year firefighting career in Seattle. He got his start in 1990 as a volunteer firefighter in the small community of Oakville, Wash., where he grew up, and told The Canyon Weekly Scio reminded him of his hometown.

“There’s certain things that attract you to a small-town community where everybody knows everybody, everybody’s friendly, you don’t have as many of the issues as you do in a big city,” he said, adding moving back to a rural community was a welcome change of pace.

White said he may be from out of the area, but he is committed to the local citizens and to strengthening the district. One of his biggest goals is to grow the number of volunteer firefighters and EMTs.

The Scio Fire District is entirely dependent on volunteers, aside from White’s full time position and a part-time administrator. White said being a volunteer firefighter does involve a high level of commitment but is a unique and meaningful way to give back to a community.

“These folks give up a lot of time to families and loved ones to serve the citizens and the community, but they come away from that with a sense of pride and accomplishment,” said White. “It’s almost a higher calling.”

White said he will also stay on top of the state-required training for firefighters and EMTs and will work with district officers to develop a training plan. He also intends to address deferred maintenance, and will help the district continue “doing a lot with a little.”

White said his overall goal is to lead the district in a positive direction and improve its relationship with local residents.

“I want to focus on the future,” said White. “I want to focus on the positive. I want to improve the fire district, to improve the level of service, and I want to grow the number of volunteers that we have here. That’s my focus, is to make the district better.”

The chief position had been vacant since Eckhardt resigned in January amid community outcry over his job performance and perceived lack of dedication to the district. Eckhardt had been chief since 2018 after the retirement of former Chief Doug Branch.

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